Hathras Stampede: Bodies on ice blocks, kin wait for autopsy; others look for missing loved ones

Officials have put the death toll at 116 - 108 of them women and seven children.
Relatives mourn near the body of a victim a day after a stampede that occured during a 'satsang' (religious congregation), in Sikandra Rao area of Hathras district, Wednesday, July 3, 2024.
Relatives mourn near the body of a victim a day after a stampede that occured during a 'satsang' (religious congregation), in Sikandra Rao area of Hathras district, Wednesday, July 3, 2024.Photo | PTI

HATHRAS: Scores of bodies were lying on blocks of ice inside the government hospital here on Tuesday night in the aftermath of the deadly stampede at a religious congregation, as the wailing relatives of the victims waited outside in drizzle to take mortal remains back home.

Officials have put the death toll at 116 - 108 of them women and seven children.

The victims were part of the crowd of thousands that had gathered near Phulrai village in the Sikandrarau area for the 'satsang' by religious preacher Bhole Baba.

The stampede took place at around 3.30 pm when Baba was leaving the venue.

Outside Sikandra Rao Community Health Centre, the closest healthcare facility from the stampede site, many continued searching for their missing family members late into the night.

Relatives mourn near the body of a victim a day after a stampede that occured during a 'satsang' (religious congregation), in Sikandra Rao area of Hathras district, Wednesday, July 3, 2024.
117 dead, scores injured in stampede at religious congregation in UP

Rajesh, who lives in Kasganj district, said he was looking for his mother, while Shivam searched for his paternal aunt (bua).

Both carried mobile phones in their hands showing pictures of their relatives.

"I watched my mother's picture on a news channel and recognised her. She had come for the programme here along with two dozen other people from our village," Rajesh said.

Anshu and Pabal Kumar waited near the CHC in their small pick-up truck, loaded with empty milk containers, hoping to find Gopal Singh, 40, the missing father of their cousin.

"He went for the programme but hasn't returned home yet. He is not street smart, doesn't even carry a phone," Anshu told PTI.

He said Singh was not a follower of Baba but had gone to the event for the first time on the insistence of an acquaintance.

Meena Devi, who lost her mother Sudama Devi (65), said, "It was drizzling in the area (Sadiqpur) where I live, otherwise I had planned to go to the 'sangat' with my mother."

An inconsolable Meena sat outside the TB department of the Bagla Combined District Hospital where scores of bodies were kept on the ground floor.

"My brother and sister-in-law, their kids had accompanied my mother to the 'Sangat'. In the crowd, my mother got left behind and was crushed over," she told PTI.

Vinod Kumar Suryavanshi, who lives in Barse village in the Sasni Tehsil, lost his 72-year-old maternal aunt while his mother luckily survived.

"I have been here for three hours. The body is still here and I have been told it will go for post-mortem now but I am not sure how much more time it will take," he said as he waited for his aunt's son who was arriving here from Greater Noida.

Suryavanshi said his aunt and mother have been following the Baba's sermons for around 15 years now and described the stampede as "unfortunate".

A number of bodies were kept at the district hospital here.

Some were at the trauma centre in Sikandrarau area near the incident spot while some others were sent to the government hospital in the adjoining Etah district.

"My mother's body is here but I'm unable to get an ambulance to take it for post-mortem," said Rajesh, wearing a face mask as he made frantic inquires with police officials on duty inside the TB department.

Meanwhile, workers and volunteers of the RSS and the Bajrang Dal also remained at the hospital since the afternoon, distributing water packets and offering guidance on medical procedures to relatives of victims, many of whom were in shock and struggling to come to terms with the tragedy.

"The number of ambulances was inadequate for the bodies we have seen here today," Aniket, a Bajrang Dal volunteer, told PTI while standing guard at the gate of the TB Department building, drenched in sweat.

Earlier in the day, heartbreaking scenes unfolded outside the district's Sikandara Rao Trauma Centre, where victims, dead or unconscious, were brought in ambulances, trucks and cars.

A woman sat crying among five or six bodies in a truck, urging people to help her get the body of her daughter out of the vehicle.

"There are almost 100-200 casualties and there was only one doctor at the hospital. There was no facility for oxygen. Some are still breathing but there are no proper treatment facilities," an agitated youth said outside the hospital.

Eyewitness Shakuntala Devi told PTI Videos that the stampede took place while people were leaving the venue at the end of the 'satsang'.

"Outside, there was a road built on a height over a drain. People fell atop each other," she said.

A second eyewitness, Sonu Kumar, said there were at least 10,000 people at the venue and when Baba was leaving, many of them rushed to touch his feet.

As they were returning, people slipped and fell over one another as parts of the ground had turned boggy with water overflowing from a nearby drain, he added.

Another person who had left the venue before the programme ended said the arrangements made were inadequate for the size of the crowd gathered at the venue.

Sanding outside the mortuary in Etah, Kailash said people fell on top of each other due to the slippery mud and the crowd coming from behind crushed them.

Santosh, who went to Hathras from Firozabad to attend the 'satsang', told reporters, "I went to Satsang with my sister. Hari ji came at around noon. It concluded at 1.30 o'clock I took prasad in the pandal with my sister.

"When we came out, we saw that everyone ran for darshan. There was a drain nearby, and some people fell in it." He said that the number of police personnel at the site was relatively less.

Agra's additional director general of police and Aligarh divisional commissioner are part of a team that would probe into the incident, the state government said.

The team has been asked to give its report in 24 hours.

Speaking to media persons, District Magistrate Ashish Kumar said it was a private function for which the permission was granted by the sub-divisional magistrate.

The local administration provided security outside the venue while the internal arrangement was to be looked after by the organisers, he added.

The Uttar Pradesh government said an FIR will be registered against the organisers of the programme.

Relatives mourn near the body of a victim a day after a stampede that occured during a 'satsang' (religious congregation), in Sikandra Rao area of Hathras district, Wednesday, July 3, 2024.
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