27 dead, several injured at Godavari Pushkaralu in AP
At least 27 people have died and several others injured after a stampede broke out at the Godavari ‘Pushkaralu’ religious festival which began on Tuesday morning in Rajahmundry in Andhra Pradesh. The 12-day ‘Pushkaralu’ event is similar to the ‘Kumbh Mela’, which also began today. The tragedy struck between 7.30 am and 8 am and most of the victims were elderly people. Rajahmundry Sub-Collector Vijaya Ramaraju said the bodies had been shifted to Rajahmundry Government Hospital and the injured taken to a nearby hospital. “So far 27 have died …most of the dead are elderly women,” Ramaraju said.
The victims had been waiting since early hours and some of them were tired as they had travelled long distances to reach here. The official said there is a possibility that the deaths were caused due to suffocation. Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu, who was on the spot to take the holy dip, expressed profound grief at the tragedy and is personally monitoring relief and rescue operations.
A visibly disturbed Naidu, monitoring the situation from the control room, said, “This is very unfortunate and shocking. I have come here many times to review arrangements to ensure smooth conduct of the event. But some problems cropped up in execution.” According to eyewitnesses, Minister P Narayana was also stuck in the crowd. To save themselves, several devotees were seen clambering atop the ‘gopurams’, or monumental towers at the entrance of any temple. The Chief Minister also announced an ex-gratia of Rs 10 lakh for the family of the deceased and said, if necessary, he would remain in Rajahmundry for the next 11 days. Earlier in the day, Naidu, accompanied by his wife and son, had taken the holy dip, where the river is full in its expanse.
I will stay in Rajahmundry until normalcy is restored. Here’s emergency contact information: https://t.co/I85qi8zxEA. Spread the word.
— N Chandrababu Naidu (@ncbn) July 14, 2015
Opposition parties have criticised the state government for poor security arrangements at the ghats and the failure of police in controlling the surging crowd. YSRCP Deputy floor leader Jyothula Nehru termed the incident unfortunate and asked the government to step up security at the ghats. Lakhs of devotees from Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and other parts of the country thronged the ghats today to take a holy dip on the occasion of Maha Pushkaralu.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi too expressed grief over the loss of lives in the stampede. Modi said he spoke to Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu and discussed the situation with him. “Deeply pained at the loss of lives due to stampede at Rajahmundry. My condolences to the families of the deceased & prayers with the injured,” he tweeted.
Deeply pained at the loss of lives due to stampede at Rajahmundry. My condolences to the families of the deceased & prayers with the injured
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) July 14, 2015
The Godavari Maha Pushkaralu, on the lines of the Maha Kumbhamela, occurs once every 144 years and this time it’s being celebrated for 12 days, from July 14 to 25. The normal Pushkaralus are celebrated every 12 years at 12 sacred rivers of India based on the zodiac signs. A holy dip in the river during Pushkaralu is believed to free one from all sins. The Godavari river travels 1465 km from Triambakeshwar in Nasik, Maharashtra to Telangana, Chhattisgarh and ends at Antarvedi in East Godavari in Andhra Pradesh, before joining the Bay of Bengal, touching several famed temples situated along its banks.