Four students die in stampede at Cochin University of Science and Technology tech festival

Hundreds of students who were waiting outside rushed into the auditorium, already packed with 1,000-odd people, leading to the stampede

November 25, 2023 09:11 pm | Updated November 26, 2023 01:05 pm IST - KOCHI

The site of the stampede at the Cochin University of Science and Technology in Kochi on November 25, 2023. The stampede claimed at least four lives and left several others injured.

The site of the stampede at the Cochin University of Science and Technology in Kochi on November 25, 2023. The stampede claimed at least four lives and left several others injured. | Photo Credit: Thulasi Kakkat

At least four students were killed and 61 were injured in a stampede at an auditorium on the main campus of the Cochin University of Science and Technology (Cusat) where a tech fest was concluding on Saturday. Two of the injured students are treated in the ICU of the Government Medical College, Ernakulam.

Also read | Tragedy appears to be a freak incident, says ADGP

The incident occurred around 7.30 p.m. just before the start of a concert by playback singer Nikhita Gandhi. The auditorium was already packed with over a 1,000 students. Hundreds of students who were waiting outside the auditorium rushed in when there was a sudden downpour and they fell upon those who were standing on the steps leading to the auditorium below.  

While the authorities at the Government Medical College Hospital, Ernakulam, confirmed the death of four students, more details were not immediately available. Forty-six injured students were admitted to the MCH, and 15 to Kinder Hospital in the vicinity.

Eyewitnesses said that the auditorium was jam-packed before the start of the music show. Those who rushed in did not realise that they were running into students, said a person.

38 admitted to hospitals; two in serious condition

Thirty-eight people admitted to various hospitals for treatment, two of the 38 are reportedly in a serious condition.

As many as 70 people were brought to hospitals near the university, including the Government Medical College in Kalamassery. Three of them are admitted to the ICU, 31 are in wards and two of them are in a private hospital in serious condition.

Post mortem examination of the deceased began at 7 a. m. The bodies will be brought to the University campus for the public to pay their respects. Ministers P. Rajeeve and R. Bindu visited the campus on Sunday morning.

Minister P. Rajeeve visits the accident spot at CUSAT on Sunday morning.

Minister P. Rajeeve visits the accident spot at CUSAT on Sunday morning. | Photo Credit: Thulasi Kakkat

Emergency meeting

In the wake of the tragedy, an emergency meeting of the Cabinet was presided by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan at Kozhikode. Industries Minister P. Rajeeve and Higher Education Minister R. Bindu were asked to rush to Kochi. Health Minister Veena George said health-care professionals, including doctors, were available at the MCH and at the General Hospital in Ernakulam to provide all medical support.

Education Minister R. Bindu said, “A three member committee of experts will be constituted to study the circumstances leading to the tragic incident. The committee will also suggest ways to avoid such tragedies in the future.”

Minister P. Rajeeve said, “Instructions has been issued to all auditoriums. Educational institutions is expected to take precautions. Nobody is held responsible yet. Every measure will be adopted to ensure that lives are not lost in tragedies like this.”

University response

The university authorities said they did not anticipate such a crowd. Students from other educational institutions had also turned up at the venue for the music show. The gate at the entrance was kept locked to control the rush. But the situation went out of control when those waiting outside barged in amidst the sudden downpour. A student who was part of the organising team said that their appeal not to rush into the auditorium went unheeded. “We could not realise that those rushing in were falling upon others who were already standing inside and close to the entrance gate,” he said.

V-C submits preliminary report

Ms. Bindu said that the CUSAT Vice-Chancellor has already submitted a preliminary report on the stampede, and a more detailed report is expected on Sunday morning.

The Principal Secretary of Higher Education has been asked to conduct an investigation into the incident and submit a report at the earliest. The university will bear all medical expenses of the students under treatment.

Ms. Bindu said the Higher Education Department would issue guidelines to avert similar tragedies in future. She was talking to reporters at the Government Medical College in Ernakulam around midnight on Saturday.

Mr. Rajeeve said the tragedy at CUSAT was most unfortunate and unexpected.

The condition of the two injured students, who are in the ICU of the Government Medical College, Ernakulam, was not critical as per doctors. Ms. George had intervened to make all arrangements at the hospital.

“I have spoken with the doctors and management of Aster Medicity and Kinder hospital. The condition of the two at the ICU in Aster continues to be critical though there is progress. The condition of the two students to be discharged from the hospital is not serious. The government has made all treatment facilities,” he said.

Mr. Rajeeve said that the Cabinet had met in the wake of the tragedy. The police, he said, would conduct a detailed investigation.

“The government is exploring ways to issue mandatory alerts in connection with such crowded events,” he said.

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