According to police, today being the last day to end their 'Deeksha' (austerity), hundreds of thousands of pilgrims (bhavanis) had thronged the temple. The stampede occurred at the 'Omkar' turning. The deceased were identified as Rambabu (8) of Eluru, Kesibai(21) of Kurnool, Chuvadda Lakshmi (23) of Vijayawada, Sunita (38) of Kakinada and Ramulamma (50) of Visakhapatnam. City Police Commissioner C V Anand, who visited the spot, said the Devasthanam officials had not heeded their advice to take precautionary measures to avoid any such incident.
He said the stampede occurred as there was only one way for the pilgrims to enter and exit. Regretting the incident, Andhra Pradesh Endowments Commissioner said action would be taken against the officials responsible for the mishap. The bodies were shifted to the Government General Hospital for a post-mortem. The injured were also admitted to the hospital.
Meanwhile, Andhra Pradesh Endowments Minister Ratnakar Rao announced an ex-gratia of Rs one lakh each to next of kin of the deceased and Rs 10,000 each to the injured. The State Endowments Commissioner would conduct an inquiry into the incident, the minister said. Temple sources told UNI that about three lakh devotees had visited the temple since midnight and it was opened for 'darshan' at 0300 hrs today. About two lakh devotees had ended their 'deekshas' since December 30, the sources added.
Every year more than five lakh 'bhavanis' from all over the state visit the temple to relinquish their 41-day-long austerity.