A wave of crowds at a popular Hindu shrine in Indian-controlled Kashmir killed at least 12 people and injured 15 others on New Years Day, officials said.
Early reports suggested that an altercation between a group of worshipers led to the crash on Saturday morning at the Mata Vaishnav Devi shrine, where tens of thousands of Hindus gathered to pay their respects in the hilly town of Katra, near the southern city of Jammu.
âSomething happened near one of the doors and I found myself crushed by people. I choked and fell, but managed to get up,â said Mahesh, who didn’t gave only one name.
âI saw people moving over the bodies. It was a horrible sight, but I managed to help rescue the injured, âhe said.
The Press Trust of India news agency quoted Police Chief Dilbag Singh as saying the authorities reacted swiftly and order among the crowds was immediately restored.
The pilgrimage resumed after nearly four hours, officials said. An investigation was underway.
Another devotee named Priyansh said he and 10 friends from New Delhi arrived on Friday evening to visit the shrine. He said two of his friends died in the crash.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed his condolences in a message on Twitter.
“Extremely saddened by the loss of life due to a stampede,” Modi wrote.
Pilgrims often walk on foot to reach the hilltop temple, which is one of the most visited shrines in northern India.
Deadly influxes of crowds are quite common at Indian religious festivals where huge gatherings, sometimes in the millions, cover small areas with little security or control.
In 2013, pilgrims visiting a temple for a popular Hindu festival in central Madhya Pradesh were trampled on fears that a bridge might collapse, and at least 115 people were crushed or died in the river in below.
More than 100 Hindu worshipers died in a crash in 2011 during a religious holiday in the southern state of Kerala.