27 killed in stampede during holy dip in Andhra Pradesh; PM Modi pays condolences

Twenty-seven people, mostly women, died in a stampede at one of the 32 bathing ghats on the banks of the Godavari in Rajahmundry early Tuesday morning. Lakhs of people had gathered to take a dip at the ghat on the first day of the 12-day festival of Godavari Pushkaram. Pilgrims and Opposition parties blamed poor crowd management and inadequate arrangements for the tragedy.

The stampede took place at Kotagummam ghat when several people at the front of the queue fell down as soon as the gates were thrown open. Most of the victims were from Srikakulam and Vizianagaram districts. Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu, who had taken a dip with his family at a nearby ghat an hour earlier, broke down at Vijaywada Government Hospital, where the injured were admitted. Minister for Home and Disaster Management N Chinna Rajappa said, “It is considered a sacred ghat and most pilgrims had gathered just outside, leading to overcrowding. Women and elderly persons fell down when the gates were opened and people pushed each other.”

A livid Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu pulled up the police and district administration authorities for not taking enough measures to control the crowds even though he had pointed out to them on Sunday when he had visited the spot to see the arrangements made for the pushkar which occurs once every 144 years. “All the people are going to only a few ghats which are already overcrowded. I request people to go to other ghats which are nearly empty,’’ Naidu said from the control room at Rajahmundry from where he was directing the rescue and relief operations after the stampede. The tragedy struck an hour after CM Naidu along with his wife and son N Nokesh took a dip in the river and had left the place.

Naidu pulled up the police and district administration for not taking enough measures to control the crowd, despite being told by him to do so. “All the people are going to only a few ghats which are already overcrowded. I request people to go to other ghats nearby. There are 32 ghats in Rajahmundry and over 250 along the Godavari,” he said.

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