PATNA: At least 32 people were killed and more than 50 seriously injured in a stampede that broke out at Gandhi Maidan here shortly after the Dussehra celebrations ended. Most of the victims were women and children. While the State government announced an ex-gratia payment of Rs 3 lakh to the kin of each victim, Prime Minister Narendra Modi sanctioned Rs 2 lakh from the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund.
He also announced Rs 50,000 compensation for each critically injured person and reviewed the situation in a telephone call with Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi. The injured were immediately rushed to the Patna Medical College and Hospital (PMCH). Manjhi was the chief guest at the function where people watched an arrow setting the 60-feet tall effigy of Ravan into flames.
While Home Secretary Amir Subhani said at least 32 people lost their lives, sources said the toll could be much higher. Several of those injured were in a serious condition.
The tragedy struck after the Ravan Vadh (Ravan slaying) when the four lakh-strong crowd was dispersing. Sources said the police had to resort to lathis as the crowd went out of control in a rush to leave the grounds after the function ended, leading to the stampede.
Agencies quoted some eyewitnesses as saying that panic broke out following rumours that a live electric wire had fallen to the ground. An enquiry to ascertain the actual cause of the stampede would be conducted by the
Additional Director General of Police.
The huge field, which witnessed serial blasts ahead of a Modi rally last year, had only three gates of which one was reserved for the VIPs, who the security personnel present were busy guarding.
“Among the dead, there were 5-6 children and around 20 women,” according to Patna District Magistrate Manish Kumar Verma. Slippers, shoes and footwear were seen strewn on a 500 metre stretch as people tried to flee from the scene. “There was so much rush towards the exit gate that several women and children were run over in the frenzy,” Verma said. This is the second such incident in the State after over two dozen people were killed when a bamboo bridge collapsed during Chhath Pooja celebrations in Patna in November 2012.
As was the case then, the PMCH was totally unprepared for the influx of those injured in the stampede. Several bodies were seen lying unattended while many of those injured were awaiting treatment at the hospital, which faces shortage of doctors and emergency supplies.