Woman killed, eight injured in stampede on T-Setu bridge during Makar Sankranti
According to sources, the average annual turnout at the shrine and fair has been 30,000 to 40,000 people.
CUTTACK/BHUBANESWAR: A woman was killed and eight others injured, including several children, in a stampede that occurred on the T-Setu bridge on Mahanadi river in Cuttack district on Saturday. The bridge connects the famous Singhnath Pitha, a Shiva shrine at Gopinathpur in Badamba block. Huge rush of people and unregulated traffic is said to have led to the stampede on the bridge.
As per reports, over 1.5 lakh people had turned up for offering Makar Sankranti prayers in the shrine and visit the popular fair Bali Makar Mela, which was being held after a gap of two years due to Covid restrictions. To make the matters worse, a major part of the 7.5 metre wide bridge was blocked by parked vehicles.
Sources said, the bridge got chock-a-block resulting in the stampede between 2.30 pm and 3.30 pm. Several people also fell unconscious because of the huge rush. In order to escape from the stampede many jumped off the bridge to the sand bed of the river and sustained injuries.
The deceased has been identified as Anjana Swain(45), wife of Akhila Swain of Pathapur under Barput gram panchayat in Banki-Dampada block. The eight injured were admitted to Badamaba CHC before five of them including three boys were shifted to SCB medical college and hospital. Two are undergoing treatment at Athagarh sub divisional hospital.
According to sources, the average annual turnout at the shrine and fair has been 30,000 to 40,000 people. The shrine is located on an island in the middle of Mahanadi river. In view of the large gathering on Makar Sankranti day, the administration used to construct a 3-km-long fair-weather road (pedestrian track) on the river bed to facilitate communication for devotees.
Considering the plight of the devotees, the government constructed a 3.4 km-long bridge, connecting Gopinathpur in Badamba, Baideswar in Banki and Singhnath Pitha. The bridge built at the cost of Rs 111 crore was inaugurated by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik in December 2021.
However, last year the festival was not held due to Covid pandemic. With no restrictions this year, huge rush was noticed on the T-Setu on Saturday from early morning. Considering the previous footfall, the administration had deployed only three platoons of police force at the spot, who failed to control the crowd of about 1.5 lakh to 2 lakh people.
“We had also constructed a fair-weather road this year. But, more people preferred to take the bridge. Unexpected rush of devotees led to stampede like situation on the end side approaching the shrine,” said Athagarh sub-collector Hemant Swain.
The chief minister declared ex-gratia of Rs 5 lakh to family of the deceased. Collector Bhabani Shankar Chayani said Rs 20,000 has been provided to the family of the deceased, while Rs 10,000 has been sanctioned from Red Cross fund for each injured person.
“The situation is now under control. Prohibition orders under section 144 of CrPC too has been imposed at the shrine for the next two days in order to prevent any further incident due to overcrowding on the bridge,” Chayani said.
DGP Sunil Kumar Bansal said Central Range IG Narasingha Bhol visited Singhnath Pitha after the incident in the afternoon and further investigation is continuing.“Initial investigation suggests that the static crowd added to the rush which reached its peak after 1.30 pm,” said Bhol.Odisha Fire Service personnel along with police were engaged in the rescue operations after the stampede took place.