At least 14 people are reported killed in a rush in Andhra Pradesh’s East Godavari district this morning and several others have been injured.
The tragedy took place at a bathing ghat in Rajahmundry during the “Maha Pushkaralu”, a religious festival that celebrates rivers and draws huge crowds in both Telangana and Andhra Pradesh.
A large number of pilgrims had rushed towards one of the gates at the Kotagummam Pushkar ghat on the banks of the Godavari river to take a bath, when some women slipped and fell, causing the stampede, a disaster management official said.
Twelve bodies have been brought to a local hospital. Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu is said to be monitoring the situation from a police control room and has ordered that more policemen be deployed to control crowds.
The 12-day festival began today and Mr Naidu was among those who bathed in the Godavari river, considered holy, this morning. The public was stopped from bathing for about two hours when the chief minister took a dip.
Maha Pushkaralu occurs once every 144 years; a smaller version or Pushkaralu is held once every 12 years. More than 10 million people are expected to attend the festival this year.
The mass pilgrimage is compared often to the Kumbh Mela, which began in Nashik today. The event is held every third year and is rotated between four holy sites.
Organisers of this year’s event at Nashik are desperate to avoid a repeat of a deadly stampede at the same venue 12 years ago.
39 pilgrims were trampled to death and dozens injured when the religious festival was last held by the Godavari river in Nashik, around 100 miles northeast of Mumbai, in 2003.