RAJAHMUNDRY: At least 27 pilgrims, 21 of them women, died and more than 30 others injured in a stampede at a major bathing ghat on the banks of the Godavari river where a huge crowd of devotees had gathered on the opening day of the Pushkaram festival here on Tuesday.
As the crowd kept swelling, the pilgrims pushed each other resulting in the stampede near the Fort gate of Kotagummam area here. Adding to the woes, some pilgrims tried to scale a wall to enter the Pushkar Ghat and policemen resorted to mild lathicharge. What followed was utter chaos.
Later, the police brought the situation under control only to find several pilgrims lying in a heap. Some of them were unconscious while many were injured. Those at the bottom of the pile were the worst-hit. They were all rushed to hospital where doctors declared 25 people brought dead. Shocked over the incident, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu rushed back to the Pushkar Ghat and ordered an inquiry into the incident. He announced an ex-gratia of `10 lakh each to the kin of the victims. After reviewing the situation with his deputy Nimmakayala China Rajappa, the Chief Minister visited the hospital and commiserated with the kin of the victims.
A visibly shaken Naidu said: “It is regrettable that lives are lost. The situation has been brought under control. If necessary I will stay in Rajahmundry till Puhskaram is over to make sure that nothing goes wrong again.” PM Narendra Modi, too, took to Twitter to express his pain at the loss of lives. “My condolences to the families of the deceased and prayers with the injured,” Modi tweeted.
Tension prevailed at the Rajahmundry GH where the victims were rushed for treatment. Health Minister Kamineni Srinivas, who arrived at the hospital to console the victim’s families, was gheroed by the latter forcing him to leave.