In one of the worst disasters of its kind, 63 persons were killed in a stampede in an ashram in Mangarh village in Pratapgarh district of Uttar Pradesh, about 200 kilometres from Lucknow on Thursday. The dead comprised of only women and children. About 64 persons were injured in the stampede, which occurred during the distribution of food and utensils in the ashram belonging to Kripalu Maharaj when a portion of the entrance gate collapsed under the pressure of the surging crowd.
The dead included 37 children and 26 women.
An official spokesman said the death toll was 61.
Thursday’s function in the ashram, located about 80 kilometres from the Pratapgarh district headquarters, was held to commemorate the death anniversary of Kripalu Maharaj’s wife.
A high-level inquiry has been ordered into the incident by the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister, Mayawati. The probe would be conducted by the divisional commissioner of Allahabad, who has been directed to identify the causes of the mishap and also to fix accountability on those responsible for the incident. He has been asked to submit his preliminary report within 24 hours following which the compensation would be fixed.
Ms. Mayawati also despatched the PWD and Excise Minister, Naseemuddin Siddiqui and the Panchayati Raj Minister, Swami Prasad Maurya to Mangarh for supervising the relief and medical operations.
The Cabinet Secretary, Shashank Shekhar Singh told reporters here on Thursday that the incident occurred at around noon in the ashram in Mangarh under the Kunda police circle area. He said the programme was originally scheduled to begin at 2.30 PM but started earlier as the crowd entered the precincts of the ashram. Mr. Singh said a portion of the entrance gate was opened but the structure collapsed under pressure from the crowd.
According to the Cabinet Secretary, dead were either crushed under the debris of the gate, or were killed in the ensuing stampede. He said the 64 injured persons were shifted to hospitals in Pratapgarh and Allahabad. Of the injured persons, 39 were discharged after giving first aid. Mr. Singh added that two seriously injured have been referred to the Sarojini Naidu Medical College Hospital in Allahabad.
A team of doctors have been rushed to the site and ambulances from Rae Bareli, Pratapgarh and Allahabad have been kept in readiness to take the injured to the hospital.
Mr. Singh said the Chief Minister has expressed profound grief over the incident.