The Kerala government has decided to institute a judicial inquiry into the stampede at Uppupara in Idukki district, which claimed the lives of 102 Sabarimala pilgrims.
Speaking to media persons after a meeting of the ministers at Kumily Thaluk Hospital where he had arrived to review the arrangments for the victims of the unprecedented tragedy, Chief Minister V. S. Achuthanandan expressed deep anguish at the incident and said his government would seek the services of a sitting judge for the inquiry.
The State government and the Travancore Devaswom Board, together, will extend Rs. 5 lakh to the family of each of the person killed. This is in addition to the Rs.1 lakh extended by the Central government, Mr. Achuthanandan said. The injured will get a financial assistance of Rs. 50,000. Those who suffered minor injuries would be given an assistance of Rs. 25,000, he added.
According to the Chief Minister the State government would shoulder all the expenses to take the bodies to their hometowns. The bodies will be accompanied a policeman and a revenue department official of the Kerala government.
The State government has declared three days of State mourning in reverence to the memory of the victims, the Chief Minister said. He also said that the week-long 51st Kerala State Schools Festival scheduled to be held at Kottayam from Monday has been postponed.
Meanwhile, the postmortem procedures which commenced at 7 a.m. on Saturday at Kumily Thaluk Hospital is continuing. The hospital authorities have released 60 bodies after postmortem and nearly 50 of them have already been taken to their hometowns. The bodies of Sabarimala pilgrims from Andhra Pradesh will be flown to Hyderbad from Kochi.
According to authorities, a majority of the victims are from the States of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. So far five of the victims have been identified as hailing from Kerala. This includes two persons
settled in Chennai. At the time of filing this report, 28 bodies still remain unidentified. Authorities said that 44 persons have been injured in the accident. This include the seven seriously injured persons who have been admitted to Government Medical colleges at Kottayam in Kerala and Theni in Tamil Nadu.
The rescue operations which commenced late on Friday continued till Saturday morning. The last body was taken out of the spot by 7 a.m. However, the pilgrims who were still camping there were moved to
Kumily by special services operated by the district authorities.
The day also saw a stream of senior political leaders including Cabinet members making a beeline to Kumily to pay homage to the victims. This included Opposition Leader Oommen Chandy, KPCC (I) president
Ramesh Chennithala, MPs and MLAs.
The rescue operations also saw whole-hearted cooperation from the local population. The trading community, organisations like the DYFI and Sevabharathi, Rotary Club and a host of people in their individual capacity could be seen engaged in work.