Rajahmundry: Authorities in Rajahmundry have stepped up measures to ensure security on the banks of Godavari river due to rise in water level keeping in view the rush of pilgrims attending the 12-day ‘Pushkaram’ festival.

Last week, at least 27 pilgrims died and 20 others were injured in a stampede at a major bathing spot on the banks of Godavari river where a huge crowd of devotees had gathered on the opening day of ‘Pushkaram’ festival on 14 July.

Nearly 4.85 lakh pilgrims took the holy dip at various ghats in East Godavari and West Godavari districts on the 10- day of festival on Thursday, state Information Department said. Heavy rains in last three days in the catchment areas have led to a rise in water level of Godavari, irrigation department’s superintending engineer Harinadh Babu said.

As a precautionary measure, more expert swimmers have been deployed at various ghats for safety of the pilgrims converging in large numbers to take a holy dip during the ‘Godavari Pushkaram’, official sources said. Senior police officials and other concerned authorities are also keeping a watch on the ghats, crowded roads, railway and bus stations, for the smooth conduct of the festival which will culminate on Saturday, they said.

A number of CCTV cameras have been put up at the ghats and main traffic areas of the city to maintain a vigil, sources said. Some local organisations are supplying food packets, water, buttermilk and milk for children and aged people visiting the ghats. Meanwhile, the water level in Godavari barrage at Dowleswaram was at 30.99 feet after heavy rains.

Around 47,000 cusecs of water was stored in Sir Aurthor Cotton barrage reservoir at Dowleswaram, of which 7,000 cusces was being utilised for agricultural purposes, Harinadh said.