Staff Reporter

CHANDIGARH: The stampede at Naina Devi temple on Sunday which left hundreds crying for medical attention is a grim reminder of the lack of basic facilities like medical care and communication in the region. The nearest hospital — which is in Bilaspur — is 70 km away and there is only one government primary health centre near the temple.

“There was no stretcher to carry the victims and even the seriously injured could not be given anything more than basic first aid,” said one of the survivors.

Doctors come late

Doctors and para-medics from Chandigarh, Shimla and Una reached the shrine late in the afternoon, so local shopkeepers and other pilgrims were the only people to lend a helping hand to the victims in distress and the relatives of the deceased.

“As there were no stretchers available, I pulled out two men and a boy from the commotion,” said Naveen, a devotee from Sangrur.

The temple, where lakhs of devotees arrive every year, had no emergency medical care or ambulance to deal with such a tragedy. The injured were carried on shoulders and in private cars because medical aid came much later. Devotees had to drive through mountainous roads to reach the Anandpur Sahib Civil Hospital which too was not well equipped to deal with the incident.

The other problem that added to the miseries of the devotees was jammed mobile networks. Caught at the temple, they frantically tried calling their families but failed to get through.

Even the helpline numbers released by the Himachal Pradesh Government fail to get connected due to an overload of calls.

The problem persisted till evening.