Utter mayhem and commotion prevailed as close to 100 pilgrims were feared dead in a stampede. The incident occurred when a jeep ploughed through the devotees in a forest at Pulimedu in Idukki district of Kerala, triggering a stampede. The tragedy occurred when a jeep carrying some pilgrims waded into a crowd of devotees, who were returning from ''makara samkrama pooja'', through a narrow trekking path in a forest, about 300km from the state capital, district administration sources said.
Search and rescue operations are in full swing with army and navy personnel pitching in on the rescue efforts. The jeep carrying the pilgrims apparently turned turtle, which caused the stampede as the pilgrims ran helter skelter, the police said. The hilly terrains and forests at the accident site hampered rescue operations.
Many injured persons have been admitted to nearby hospitals. State Home Minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan asked the top police brass, including the DGP, to rush to the spot. The injured were taken to Kottayam Medical College and Vandiperiyar Hospital while some of them rushed to Theni Medical College in Tamil Nadu, officials said.
Most pilgrims were returning after 'makara jyoti', held as a divine light by the devotees, which flickered across the eastern horizon above the Ponnambalamedu after the pooja. Most of the pilgrims dead is believed to be from Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh.
(With inputs from PTI)