At least 100 people died in a stampede Tuesday during a religious festival at a north Indian temple, officials said. The victims, most of them men, were suffocated as they rushed down a narrow path from the temple 150 yards above, they said.
Some news agencies reported that 125 deaths had been confirmed.
Thousands of Hindu pilgrims visit the Chamunda Devi temple at the southern edge of the 15th-century Mehrangarh fort in Jodhpur in Rajasthan.
Tuesday was the first day of a nine-day festival called Navratra that celebrates nine incarnations of the Hindu mother goddess Durga. Between 2,000 and 3, 000 pilgrims were present when the stampede began at about 6 a.m.
“It seems the narrow path became very slippery,” said Kiran Soni Gupta, chief civil servant in the district. “Most of the dead are men and without any visible physical injuries. It seems they died of suffocation.”
“The injured do not have any major physical injuries, not even a simple fracture,” said Dr. D. R. Mathur, of Mahatma Gandhi hospital in Jodhpur. “None of the dead bodies have any injury marks. They all died of suffocation”
“Everybody was in hurry and heated arguments took place before the stampede,” a witness said on television.
Stampedes are not rare in India. In August, 148 people died in Himachal Pradesh in similar circumstances. In 2005, a fire and stampede at the Mandhar Devi hilltop temple in western India left more than 250 dead.
“A separate queue was arranged for women and children and police was deployed at 2:00 a.m., so all the necessary arrangements were made,” said Gulab Chand Kataria, the home minister of Rajasthan.