102 killed, 50 injured in Sabari stampede

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G K Nair

Vandiperiyar(Ker), Jan 15 (PTI) At least 102Sabarimala devotees were killed and 50 injured in a stampedewhen a jeep crashed into homebound pilgrims at Pulmedu inKerala''s Idukki district, in the worst tragedy to strike theworshippers of the famed shrine in a decade.

State DGP Jacob Punnoose said 102 people have beenkilled in the tragedy that took place last night. "We haverecovered all bodies through rescue work conducted overnightdespite heavy mist and the remoteness of the hilly terrain",he said.

President Pratibha Patil and Prime Minister ManmohanSingh condoled the death of Sabarimala pilgrims

Singh sanctioned a relief of Rs one lakh each to thenext of kin of those killed in the stampede and Rs 50,000 tothose injured from the Prime Minister''s relief fund.

Congress President Sonia Gandhi also expresses herdeep anguish and shock over the tragedy in Sabarimala.

Most of the victims who perished were from Tamil Nadu,Andhdra Pradesh and Karnataka. They were returning homethrough the forest route after the Makarajyoti darshan,considered a celestial phenomenon, at the hillshrine of LordAyyappa.

The tragedy occurred at Pulmedu in Vandiperiyar when ajeep carrying pilgrims ploughed into a crowd and overturned,killing some on the spot and triggering the stampede, rescuerssaid.

Thirty-eight bodies have been identified so far, ofwhich 18 are from Tamil Nadu, 12 from Karnataka and two eachfrom Andhra Pradesh and Kerala.

Relatives of pilgrims from Tamil Nadu, who have notreturned home, arrived here looking for them, Punnose said,adding photographs and particulars of the dead would be madeavailable to help them locate their dear ones.

Punnoose said the number of injured was "quite few"because they were evacuated first and admitted to a hospitalin Tamil Nadu. Some others received minor injuries.

Aneesh, one of the early rescuers to reach the spot,said the mishap was caused by the jeep which ran into thecrowd and turned turtle.

While some people who got trapped under the jeep died,it also set off a wave of panic, triggering a stampede asthousands of pilgrims had converged at Pulmedu area, usedmostly by devotees from Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh forreturning home after darshan, he said..

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