Railway Stampede at Indian Hindu Festival Kills 36, Injures 39

A stampede at a railway station in northern India killed at least 36 people as Hindu devotees drawn by one of the holiest days of the world’s largest religious gathering rushed to board trains.

About 39 people were injured in the crush yesterday evening near a platform foot bridge in Allahabad station and are being treated at various hospitals in the city, said Anil Kumar Saxena, a spokesman at the railways ministry in New Delhi.

Authorities ordered an inquiry to find out the cause of the incident. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said victims’ families will be compensated and instructed the railway ministry and the Uttar Pradesh provincial government to provide assistance.

About 30.5 million visitors were expected to bathe yesterday at a place where Hindus consider the Ganges and Yamuna rivers converge with the mythical Saraswati, according to the festival administration’s website. Pilgrims believe that bathing at the confluence of the rivers will wash away their sins and free them from the cycle of rebirth.

The Kumbh Mela at Allahabad, which is held every 12 years, expects 100 million bathers during the festival’s 55 days. The Mela, which means fair, alternates between the cities of Nasik, Allahabad, Ujjain and Haridwar every three years. The one celebrated at Allahabad is considered the holiest of the locations.

Stampedes during religious gatherings are not uncommon in India. In 2010, 76 people died in four incidents while in 2011 a stampede in southern Kerala state killed 102, according to government figures.

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