The Saturday stampede that killed 12 people occurred 'due to a scuffle between two groups of pilgrims', the Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board (SMVDSB) said in a statement, emphasising only 35,000 pilgrims were allowed to proceed for the yatra against the normal capacity of 50,000 in view of the pandemic.
The board said Lt Governor Manoj Sinha, who is also the Chairman of the Board, was informed about the stampede at 3 am and he has been continuously monitoring the situation since then.
'National Green Tribunal has capped the normal capacity of Yatra per day to 50000. Pertinently, keeping in view the COVID-19 Pandemic, 35000 pilgrims were allowed to proceed for yatra on 31st December 2021 and for 1st Jan. 2022,' SMVDSB said in a detailed statement on the tragic incident.
It said around 2:15 am on January 1, the stampede happened near Gate No three at Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Bhawan.
'The unfortunate incident, due to a scuffle between two groups of pilgrims, resulted in the stampede. In this ill-fated incident, a total of 12 pilgrims lost their lives and 16 others were injured,' it said.
The statement said the Board as well as the Reasi District Administration promptly shifted the injured pilgrims immediately to Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Narayana Superspeciality Hospital, Kakryal, after providing first aid at Medical Unit Bhawan.
The bodies of the deceased, which include 10 men and two women pilgrims, were shifted to the Community Health Centre Katra for identification and further legal formalities, the statement said.
'Of the 12 deceased pilgrims, two have been shifted by Air and nine by Road to their native destinations by the Shrine Board Administration with the assistance of UT Administration. The lone left-out dead body will be shifted tomorrow morning by Air from GMC, Jammu,' the SMVDSB said.
Amongst the injured, who were hospitalised at Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Narayana Hospital, Kakryal, nine have been discharged, whereas seven pilgrims are still under treatment there, it said.
The board said the Lt Governor has extended his condolences to the aggrieved families and also constituted an inquiry committee headed by the principal secretary (Home) to probe the incident.
The L-G said he briefed Prime Minister Narendra Modi about the incident.
'The Hon'ble prime minister has assured all the help. Ex-gratia of Rs.10 lakh each would be given to the next of kin of those who lost their lives due to stampede and Rs 2 lakh to injured. Shrine Board to bear the cost of treatment of injured,' he was quoted as saying in the statement.
Later, he also visited the Narayana Super-specialty Hospital to meet the injured.
'According to doctors, they are stable & being monitored by senior health staff. Directed Doctors & senior admin officials to provide the best possible care to the patients. Out of 16 injured brought to Narayana Hospital, 9 have been discharged and 7 are being treated by the doctors. Praying for their speedy recovery,' the Lieutenant Governor said in a tweet.
The Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board has established a dedicated helpline, which can be approached at Phone No. 01991-234804 and 01991-234053.
The helplines established by the district administration are: DC Reasi Control Room: 01991- 245763/9419839557, PCR Katra: 01991-232010/9419145182, and PCR Reasi: 01991245076/9622856295, the statement said.