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New Delhi - The death toll from a stampede of Hindu worshippers near a temple in central India rose to 111 on Monday, most of the victims being women and children, officials said.
The stampede occurred at a bridge over the Sindh river near the Ratangarh temple in Madhya Pradesh state, where thousands went to offer prayers on Sunday on the Hindu festival of Dussehra.
Police said the stampede was triggered by a rumour that the bridge was about to collapse.
“More deaths were reported by relatives who took wounded and bodies from the accident site directly to their homes or hospitals,” district police chief CS Solanki said by phone.
He said 108 people were confirmed dead. Three people were missing and presumed dead by the authorities.
“Of the victims, 33 were children below age 14,” Solanki said.
There were 25 000 people on the 500m bridge over the river when the panic broke out.
Solanki said 12 of the 100 injured victims were in hospital, but were in a stable condition.
Police said the death toll was not expected to increase, and denied reports that several people were missing after having jumped into the river.
Angry devotees alleged that a police baton-charge had led to the stampede, and blamed police for failing to manage the crowds. A similar tragedy occurred on the same bridge in 2006, when more than 50 pilgrims were killed.
The police “led to panic and many people were trampled to death”, a survivor told the CNN-IBN television network. “I was near the exit point, but two of my children who were much behind me in the crowds died.”
In February, 36 worshippers were killed in a stampede during the Hindu festival of Kumbh Mela in the northern city of Allahabad.
More than 220 people died in a stampede at a temple in the northern town of Jodhpur in 2008.