FLASH NEWS - About 60 die in stampede near Sabarimala
- About 60 die in stampede near Sabarimala
About 60 people were killed in a stampede triggered by an accident near Sabarimala late Friday. More than 70 people were reportedly injured. The accident occurred when a vehicle lost control and ran into a group of pilgrims who were returning after witnessing the Makarajyothi. (PTI quotes Sabarimala shrine spokesman Rahul Eeshwar that at least 86 people were killed and 90 injured).
According to the police, the accident occurred around 10 p.m. on Friday at Pullumedu off Vandiperiyar on the way to Vallakkadavu in Idukki district of the State.
The Kerala government has launched a major relief operation following the accident. The authorities have opened a control room (phone numbers: 04869-222049, 252244) at Kumily police station to provide information on the victims.
Relief operations have been hampered by darkness, traffic jams and remoteness of the accident site at Pullumala, near the hill shrine. Rescuers are also facing lack of communication facilities as the place is beyond the reach of mobile services.
Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan has asked the Chief Secretary to take all efforts towards rescue and relief. The Director General of Police and Director of Health Services have already left for Sabarimala to supervise the operations. Devaswom Minister Kadannappally Ramachandran is also rushing to Sabarimala.
The tragedy occured when a jeep carrying some pilgrims waded into a crowd of devotees, who were returning from the Makara Samkrama Pooja, through a narrow trekking path in a forest, district administration sources said.
When the jeep turned turtle, it triggered the stampede as the pilgrims ran helter-skelter, the police said.Many injured persons have been admitted to nearby hospitals.
Most of the pilgrims involved in the tragedy were from Tamil Nadu who were returning to their homes to celebrate Pongal after having a darshan of the deity at the hill shrine.
The accident spot was identified at about 50 km away from Sabarimala. As per initial estimates, nearly 1.5 lakh pilgrims had left by this route for home.
Thousands of devotees had turned up for worship at the hill shrine during the Makara Samkrama Pooja on Friday evening, marking the finale of two-month pilgrimage to the famous Lord Ayyappa temple.
They were returning after witnessing Makarajyoti, held as a divine light by the devotees, which flickered across the eastern horizon above the Ponnambalamedu after the pooja.
The pooja was conducted with the idol of the deity adorned with the holy jewels, Thiruvabharanam, brought to the sanctum sanctorum in a ceremonial procession moments before the aarti.