Vandiperiyar (Kerala): In the worst pilgrim tragedy that struck south India, 104 Lord Ayyappa devotees were killed and 50 injured, seven of them seriously, in a stampede that occurred at Uppupara near here last night.
Majority of the deceased were from Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh as the grassland forest route known as ‘Pulmedu’ in the Periyar tiger reserve, is trodden by devotees from these states.
Unconfirmed reports said one of those killed was a Sri Lankan national. According to official sources, at least 12 persons, some of them children, are feared missing.
All the bodies had been shifted to hospital at Kumali for post-mortem and arrangements are being made to take them home. Kerala government had geared up its machinery fully for tackling the situation.
Chief minister V. S. Achuthanandan is reviewing the situation closely and several ministers and top police and civil officials are camping at Kumali in Idukki district to where the focus had been shifted with bodies having been brought there.
The state government has announced an emergency relief of Rs5,000 for the family of each victim.
A three-day state mourning has been declared in view of the tragedy. Doctors and paramedical staff from the area had been mobilised in large numbers to Kumali and Vandiperiyar.
According to official sources, but for a few persons feared missing, all the others involved in the accident has been accounted and the spot cleared.
Some of the seriously injured had been admitted to Kottayam medical college hospital.
The tragedy occurred when a jeep carrying pilgrims ran into a crowd and fell to the ground, killing some on the spot and paving the way for the stampede, rescuers said.
Of the 39 bodies have been identified, 18 pilgrims are from Tamil Nadu, 13 from Karnataka, six from Andhra Pradesh and two from Kerala. The government has decided to bear the expenses of treatment for those injured in the tragedy.
Kerala govt announces judicial probe
Kerala chief minister V S Achuthanandan on Saturday announced a judicial inquiry into the stampede.
Achuthanandan, who flew down by helicopter to Kumali where the bodies of the victims were brought, also announced a solatium of Rs5 lakh for the families of each of the victims.
The Government would meet the flight and road transport expenses for ferrying the bodies of victims to their home towns.
The chief minister said the government would try to avail the services of a sitting high court judge for the probe.
He also reviewed with cabinet colleagues on the spot arrangements to transport the bodies as most of the deceased were from neighbouring states of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.
The Government has announced a three-day mourning in the state. Meanwhile, Union finance minister Pranab Mukherjee and defence m inister A. K. Antony have cancelled their engagements in Kerala scheduled for tomorrow in view of the tragedy.
104 Sabarimala devotees were killed and over 40 injured in the stampede when a jeep crashed into pilgrims at Pulmedu in Kerala’s Idukki district last night.