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130 killed in Himachal temple stampede
Onkar Singh in New Delhi
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August 03, 2008 15:44 IST
Last Updated: August 03, 2008 20:06 IST

One hundred and thirty people were killed and several injured in a stampede at the Naina Devi temple in Himachal Pradesh [Images] on Sunday, the Punjab government said.

The Naina Devi temple is in Bilaspur district of Himachal Pradesh. The temple is located about 160 km from Shimla.

A large number of pilgrims had gathered to offer prayers on the occasion of 'Navratra' at the temple where a railing on the way to it collapsed due to heavy rush, resulting in the stampede, official sources said.

The Himachal Pradesh government has confirmed that more than 100 pilgrims lost their lives in the Naina Devi temple stampede. The bodies have been brought to Anandpur Sahib Civil Hospital, which is the closest to the place in Bilaspur where the incident took place.

The Naina Devi temple is one of the most visited temples of Devbhumi, which is throunged by lakhs of devotees. This is the first time that an incident of this magnitude has struck the pilgrims. The temple is located at  the height of 7,000 feet.

Chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal has reached Anandpur Sahib to meet the relatives of dead and those who have been injured. His office confirmed that the death toll has reached more than 100. He is likely to meet the newsmen later.

Bharatiya Janata Party president Rajnath Singh said that he was deeply moved by the tragedy and expressed his condolences.

"I have spoken to Dhumal who assured me that his government would take all steps to assuage the suffering of those who have been affected by the tragedy," Rajnath said.

Additional District Magistrate C P Verma said that the tragedy took place when people gathered at one place in the temple following rumours of landslide and rolling down of stones from a nearby hilltop.

The commotion caused by the rumours apparently led to the stampede, which took place as a sudden rush was caused by people returning from the temple and those going up on a 4 km trek to reach it.

A large number of the devotees were from Himachal Pradesh and neighbouring Punjab.

Superintendent of Police K K Indoria and other senior civil and police officials were at the spot to supervise the relief work, which was hampered due to rain.

A temple functionary said devotees with minor injuries have been sent to a hospital in nearby Dawar Chowk while those with serious injuries were being sent to hospitals in Punjab's Anandpur Sahib.

Inspector General of Police (Law and Order) S R Mardi has rushed to the incident site from Shimla.

Bharatiya Janata Party lesgislator Randhir Sharma from Kot Kahloor, under which the Naina Devi temple of Goddess Durga falls, has also rushed to the spot.

The state government has ordered a magisterial inquiry into the incident.

A compensation of Rs 1 lakh each to the next of kin of the deceased would be given by the state government.

Rs 50,000 each would be given to the seriously injured and Rs 25,000 each to those with minor injuries.

Expressing grief over the tragedy, Governor Prabha Rau and Dhumal offered their condolences to members of the bereaved families.

The chief minister directed concerned officials to provide speedy relief to the injured.

Additional Reportage: PTI

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