Hathras stampede: Deadly event kills at least 121 people, mostly women and children

HATHRAS, India (AP) — Overcrowding and a lack of exits have contributed to… Stampede at religious festival At least 121 people were killed in a suicide attack in northern India on Wednesday, authorities said, as worshippers rushed the preacher and chaos erupted among a quarter of a million people in attendance.

While police searched for the event’s organizers, the preacher’s lawyer said he would cooperate with authorities. More than 20 injured people are still receiving treatment.

Deadly stampede incidents relatively common In Indian religious festivals, where large crowds gather in small areas with poor infrastructure and few safety measures.

the It happened The tent was only supposed to hold 80,000 people. It was not clear how many people were able to enter the giant tent, which was set up in a muddy field in a village in the Hathras district of Uttar Pradesh state.

The cause of the stampede was not immediately clear. State Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath told reporters that a crowd rushed towards the preacher to touch him as he was coming down from the platform, and volunteers struggled to intervene.

Initial police reports indicated that thousands of people flocked to emergency exits and many slipped on the muddy ground, falling and being crushed. Most of the dead were women.

Chaos continued outside the tent as people ran toward the preacher, a Hindu guru known locally as Bhol Baba, as he left in a car. His security personnel pushed the crowd back, causing more people to fall, officials said.

Authorities were investigating and searching for the organizers, whose whereabouts were unknown. Police registered a case of culpable homicide against two of the organizers, but ruled out the preacher. Manslaughter in India carries a maximum penalty of life in prison. Adityanath said he had ordered an inquiry by a retired judge into the deaths.

The preacher’s lawyer, AP Singh, blamed some “anti-social elements” for disrupting peace and creating chaos, the Press Trust of India news agency reported.

“The preacher is ready to cooperate with the state authorities and the police,” Singh was quoted as saying by the Press Trust of India in an interview.

Binod Sukhna, who lost his mother, daughter and wife, cried as he was brought out of the morgue on Wednesday.

“My son called me and said, ‘Dad, my mom is no longer here. Come here right away. My wife is no longer here,’” he said.

The preacher’s Sri Jagat Guru Baba organization had spent more than two weeks preparing for the event. Followers from across the state — India’s most populous state with more than 200 million people — traveled to the village, in lines of parked vehicles stretching for three kilometers (about two miles).

Government official Ashish Kumar said the tent had inadequate exits. Experts said the event violated safety norms. “The event was held in a makeshift tent without ensuring multiple exit routes,” said Sanjay Srivastava, a disaster management expert.

Sonu Kumar was one of several residents who helped carry the bodies after the “heartbreaking” stampede and screams. He criticised the preacher, saying: “He got into his car and left. His followers fell on top of each other here.”

In 2013, pilgrims visiting a temple for a popular Hindu festival in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh trampled each other amid fears a bridge would collapse. At least 115 people were crushed to death or died in the river.

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In 2011, more than 100 people were killed in a stampede during a religious festival in the southern state of Kerala.

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Banerjee reported from Lucknow, India. Associated Press writer Krutika Pathi contributed to this report from New Delhi.

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Associated Press religion coverage is supported through its partnership with The Conversation US, with funding from the Lilly Endowment Inc. The Associated Press is solely responsible for this content.

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