|Injured people are treated in a hospital after a stampede broke out at a temple in Kunda, some 180 kilometers southeast of Lucknow, capital of Indian northern state of Uttar Pradesh, on March 4, 2010. At least 63 people, including women and children, were killed and some 25 others injured in a stampede at a temple where thousands of devotees gathered for a religious ritual. (Xinhua/Stringer)
PRATAPGARH, India, March 5 (Xinhua) -- "I have lost my five- year-old son. He is still untraceable but the police is neither helping nor letting me search myself. It's the height of administration and police apathy," Ram Sanjeevan, a newspaper hawker, said, sobbing at the site.
At least 65 people were killed and over 400 others injured, out of which about 50 critically injured in a stampede at a temple in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh on Thursday.
The tragic incident took place during a "bhandara" (luncheon) organized by a well-known Saint Kripalu Maharaj, a religious strongman, for the death anniversary of his wife at Kripalu Maharaj Ashram in Pratapgarh when a gate of the Ram Janki temple collapsed.
"As many as 37 women and 26 children were among those killed after they were trampled over by the crowd that had gathered at Kripalu Maharaj's ashram (religious center), about 200 km from the capital Lucknow, during distribution of food and utensils for the "Shradh" (post-death rites) of his wife," Sub-divisional Magistrate Kunda Shyama Charan told Xinhua on Friday.
Inspector General of Police (Allahabad Range) Chandra Prakash said at least 28 people have been injured in the stampede at the ashram in Mangarh area of the district. The local eyewitnesses, however, put the toll much higher at around 400 people.
About 10,000 people were in attendance at the function organized at the Ram Janki temple here without proper arrangements.
"I saw hundreds of people, mostly women and children, frantically searching for their loved ones. And there was really no one to help us. Police was nowhere around," said another eyewitness Sukharam, a street vendor here.
Another eyewitness Bhola, who had come all the way from Lucknow to attend a family function in Pratapgarh here, said that "it was actually a miserable thing to see. I saw a gate collapsing and suddenly some people started pushing one another. While some fell, others were trampled over."
Eyewitnesses said that many of those killed had fallen into a borewell near the gate. Some devotees alleged that the situation turned worse when the police used batons to disperse the crowds.
Inspector General of Police (Allahabad Range) Chandra Prakash has, however, clarified that the Pratapgarh accident occurred due to the temple's gate collapse and not due to stampede initially. But the gate collapse led to an eventual stampede which saw more people killed.
"The crowds became unmanageable as the narrow gate gave way. But what followed was worse as there was a stampede, trampling upon women and children in particular," Pratapgarh chief development officer Ashok Kumar said.
"Apparently, the organizers had not foreseen the crowds that the event would draw," Kumar said.
Officials revealed that the district authorities were not given prior intimation about the function and not enough police personnel were present at the function site.
The 85-year-old Saint Kripalu Maharaj is one of India's foremost religious leaders, giving annual conferences on religious subjects and how to obtain supreme salvation. His ashram is spread over nearly six hectares of land.
Meanwhile, the first rescue team reached the spot shortly after the incident occurred and those injured were immediately transferred to the nearby hospitals.