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IMAGES: Tragedy unfolds at Junagadh Mahashivaratri fair

Last updated on: February 20, 2012 18:03 IST

IMAGES: Tragedy unfolds at Junagadh Mahashivaratri fair

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Six pilgrims, including three women and a toddler, were killed on the spot and at least 100 were injured in a stampede in the sacred Mahashivaratri Mela in Junagadh on Sunday night. The toll mounted to seven on Monday morning when one of those injured died at a government hospital in the town.

 Touched by the tragedy and as a mark of respect to the victims, the monks at the forefront of the traditional fair cancelled -- an unprecedented decision -- the customary 'shahi' procession of the naked sadhus called ravadi that was to take place on Monday. Instead, only a 'symbolic' ravadi was carried out.

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Image: A man collects shoes left behind during a stampede in Junagadh district, in Gujarat
Photographs: Reuters

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Tragedy unfolds at Junagadh Mahashivaratri fair

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It being Sunday, thousands of devotees were heading towards Bhavnath, the foothill of the hallowed Mount Girnar, where the religious fair takes place each year.

According to the police, the cause of the stampede was a three-hour traffic jam as a result of a collision between two state transport buses on the bridge leading to Bhavnath. As there was no way to proceed further, many devotees began heading towards Bhavnath from the nearby old Panja Bridge.


Image: A woman injured in the stampede is rushed to a nearby hospital in the town
Photographs: Kalpesh Gohel

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Tragedy unfolds at Junagadh Mahashivaratri fair

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In the melee, one person walking on the parapet of the bridge slipped and fell down, triggering off the stampede as many others walking behind him and holding one another also lost their balance and began to be trampled underfoot in the rush.

The eyewitnesses said there was chaos everywhere as people were running for their lives leaving many children and women wailing. About 80 persons fell from the bridge and three women, two men and a kid lost their lives in the hustle and bustle that followed.



Image: At least 100 people were injured in the stampede
Photographs: Kalpesh Gohel
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As the news of the tragedy spread like wildfire, the police stopped the people and vehicles at Girnar Gate itself and did not allow them to proceed to Bhavnath. But there were so many people and vehicles on the road leading to Bhavnath that it was an uphill task for authorities to clear the traffic jam.

So much so that even ambulance personnel had a hard time taking the injured to the hospital. Many of the injured were carried to the hospital on the bonnets and roofs of private vehicles.



Image: An ambulance was rushed to the spot to ferry the injured piligrims to a hospital


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It is learnt that the police had to take recourse to a mild lathicharge to control the pilgrims. With the mobile network being jammed for 150 minutes in the wake of the tragedy, no communication was possible between the devotees and their relatives, adding more to the chaos.

Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi was constantly monitoring the situation. State agriculture and co-operation and law minister Dilip Sanghani rushed to Junagadh.


Image: Police try to control pilgrims, who went into a frenzy as the news of the stampede spread
Photographs: Kalpesh Gohel

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Tragedy unfolds at Junagadh Mahashivaratri fair

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Sanghani reached the civil hospital at 2 am on Monday and met the injured. While the state government has announced an aid of Rs. 1,00,000 each for the kin of the deceased, the Congress has demanded a compensation of Rs 5,00,000 for the victims.

Meanwhile, the government has set up a high-level inquiry committee to look into the whole incident.


Image: The state government and Junagadh Municipal Corporation has announced a compensation of Rs 25,000 for the injured
Photographs: Kalpesh Gohel

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