Naina Devi temple stampede death toll touches 146, devotees resume trekking

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Bilaspur, Aug 4 : Devotees resumed trekking to Naina Devi temple on Sunday midnight even as the death toll in the worst-ever temple tragedy touches 146 and 129 bodies have been identified so far.

Thirty children and 38 women were among those killed in the stampede that was apparently sparked off by rumours of a landslide at the hill shrine in Bilaspur District of Himachal Pradesh.

Officials said most of the people died of suffocation as tens of thousands of pilgrims had converged at the shrine, located about 165 kms from Shimla, to celebrate the nine-day Shravan Navratra festival.

Police said rumours of a landslide spread through the crowd in the morning, causing panic. Pilgrims at the shrine began to flee down a narrow path and collided with crowds walking towards the temple. With a concrete wall on one side and a vertical drop on the other, many were crushed to death.

There were also reports that a railing at the shrine collapsed under the weight of the crowd, sending many people falling down a narrow, steep staircase.

Among those killed, 104 were from Punjab and 32 from Haryana

"The Punjab Government is providing all kind of assistance to the relatives of victims for transportation of bodies from Bhai Jaitta civil hospital here," Ropar Deputy Commissioner B Purshartha said on Monday.

Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, who visited the hospital and the site of the incident, assured that the state government in coordination with the Himachal Pradesh Government will improve the infrastructure at the shrine to ensure "maximum safety" of the pilgrims.

The Himachal Pradesh Government has ordered a commissioner-level inquiry into the incident.

Both the Punjab and Himachal Pradesh Government had already announced an ex-gratia of Rs one lakh each to the dead and free treatment for the injured.

Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda on Monday announced an ex-gratia of Rs 1 lakh for the next of kin of each of those 32 persons of Haryana, who lost their lives in the stampede.

ANI

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