16 killed in stampede in northern Indian

Updated: 2011-11-08 22:15


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NEW DELHI - At least 16 people, mostly elderly women, were killed and two dozen others were injured in a stampede which broke out at an abode in the northern Indian holy town of Haridwar Tuesday, said police.

The incident happened when hundreds of people had gathered for the centenary celebrations of Hindu religious Guru Pandit Sriram Sharma at Shantikunj Ashram (temple).

The stampede broke out when a large number of followers tried to enter the gate of the holy place to take part in a "yagya" or fire ritual as part of the celebrations.

Senior administrative and police officials have rushed to the spot of the incident.

According to local TV footage, the injured were removed from the site to ambulances by organizers of the event, which was supposed to draw 5 million people in five days since Sunday.

Stampede takes place from time to time in crowded religious events in India.

Witnesses said the tragedy occurred when an elderly woman slipped while walking through a barricaded route close to where 1,551 yagyas - or fire rituals - were on, according to Indo-Asian News Service.

After the woman fell, the crowd kept pushing ahead, crushing many who fell to the ground, said the report.

The dead included 14 women and two men. Most were aged and were suffocated to death. Around 40 others were injured in varying degrees.

Local officials claimed that the organizers had not told them that tens of thousands of people would throng Haridwar during the event. But the organizer, Gayatri Parivar, which commands millions of members mostly in northern and western India, said it had urged the elderly not to visit Haridwar.

Despite the tragedy, the organizers said that they continued with their rituals because canceling the event would have led to more panic.

Gayatri Parivar organized the event aimed at propagating Gayatri Mantra - one of the foremost chants in Hinduism.