No place to run, 32 die in stampede in Bihar

Patna: At least 32 people died after a stampede broke out near the Gandhi Maidan in Patna after Dussehra celebrations on Friday evening. The incident happened close to Ramgulam Chowk, which is outside the Gandhi Maidan. Initial media reports suggested not all gates of the Maidan were open.

There were also unsubstantiated reports that said the stampede was triggered by a lathi-charge. Another account said that the stampede started after a rumour spread that an electrical wire had snapped and fallen on the ground.

The Union Home Minister has sought a report on the incident. The CCTV footage at the venue will help reconstruct the tragedy.

Slippers and shoes littered the 500 metre stretch; the footwear seemed to be mute witnesses to the deadly scramble to flee the chaos. “There was a scramble towards the exit gate and several women and children were run over in the frenzy,” said an official.

The tragedy struck at around 7 PM when people were returning after watching the “Ravana Vadh” and jostled with each other to move ahead, an eye-witness said. Tens of thousands of people had gathered to watch the annual event at the historic Gandhi Maidan where several pockets were reportedly dimly lit.

BJP leader Kirti Azad blamed the incident on the lack of proper evacuation plans at the site. Manoj Jha of the Rashtriya Janata Dal accused the government of Bihar for failing to manage large crowds during festivals.

Many people fainted in the stampede and were rushed to the Patna Medical College Hospital, which is just two km away from the site of the stampede. Most of the deceased were women and children. A huge crowd had collected outside the hospital, with many anxious people waiting to hear news about their relatives.

Dussehra celebrations at the Gandhi Maidan are the biggest in Patna and people turn up in huge numbers every year to watch the burning of gigantic effigies here. The event is organised by the state government. Bihar Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manji was also present at the Gandhi Maidan for the celebrations.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has sanctioned Rs 2 lakh for the next of kin of those killed in the stampede. He also spoke to Bihar Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi.

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