More than 50 pilgrims killed in Sabarimala stampede (Second Lead)

Friday, January 14, 2011

VANDIPERIYAR - More than 50 pilgrims were killed late Friday evening in a stampede in a forest near the Sabarimala shrine when thousands of devotees were returning after watching the celestial Makara Jyothi light, the most important event of the pilgrimage. The death toll is expected to go up, officials said.

The stampede occurred in a forested area at Pulmedu, 30 km from Sabarimala after 8 p.m.

Suresh, a doctor treating the injured at the local hospital here, said the stampede occurred when a barricade broke and the huge crowd surged forward, trampling many under foot.

“They say it was a stampede after a barricade broke and the huge crowd that had gathered at Pulmedu got jittery, and in the melee several pilgrims died,” said the doctor.

Friday was the most important day in the Sabarimala pilgrimage as a celestial light appears on the horizon, which can be seen even 30 km from the temple town.

Since the past few days the temple town has been overflowing with pilgrims, with many coming from Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.

Many pilgrims had gathered near Pulmedu, about 30 km from Sabarimala temple, and were watching the celestial Makara Jyothi when the barricade broke and the stampede occurred.

Reports indicate that most of the dead are from Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.

Local legislator E.S. Bijimol told IANS that she heard reports that the stampede occurred when a jeep that had broken down was pushed and it suddenly rolled into the crowd.

“I am at the local hospital at Vandiperiyar and from the information that I have been able to gather is that the death toll has risen to 53. I am told that the casualty is likely to go up,” said Bijimol.

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