Cases of ''lost and found'' amid tales of woes

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Vandiperiyar (Ker), Jan 15 (PTI) Heart-rending sceneswere witnessed today at the Kumali Government Hospital wherebodies of Sabarimala stampede victims were rushed for post-mortem, as helpless cries of frantic relatives searching fortheir kin rent the air.

A steady stream of people from adjoining areas in TamilNadu had begun to pour into the border town of Kumali sincethis morning in search of their near and dear ones withinhours of the tragedy last night. Most of the 102 victims werefrom the neighbouring states of Kerala, which is home to therevered Ayyappa shrine.

There were reports of some members belonging to a samebatch of pilgrims dying in the stampede while others survived,only to return to their homes without their companions withwhom they set out on the pilgrimage just a few days back.

Many found it difficult to hold back tears on looking atthe cold, lifeless bodies of relatives or friends who had beenwith them on the sacred pilgrimage till a few hours back.

Others heaved a sigh of relief on knowing that theirnear and dear ones whom they were searching for in desperationhad survived unscathed.

A mourning pilgrim from Karnataka said he was finding ittough to think of accompanying the body of a 23-year-old youthwho had come with him.

"We did not think cruel fate is store for us till themoment it happened. We were rushing down through Pullumeduafter having glimpses of ''Makarajyoti''(divine light) when itall happened", said 38-year-old Venkappa.

"Our group stood near a bridge and after seeing the''jyoti'', we stepped down. I felt like a rush initially...butdid not think everthing was going beyond control," he toldPTI.

They later had a rude shock when they came to knowHanumanth Gowda Patel, a 23-year old member of their group,succumbed to injuries.

A group from Tamil Nadu meanwhile was in a state ofexcitement of getting back one of its members--a nine-year oldboy, who went missing since the time of tragedy.

The group members identified the child (young devoteesare called ''Manikantas'', the childhood name of Lord Ayyappa)from among the injured at the hospital.

Post-mortem of around 93 bodies had been completed byafternoon and police and hospital authorities were taking allsteps to send dead bodies to their home towns without delay.

A total of 37 dead bodies, including those from Kerala,Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, had already beensent to the respective destinations, hospital officials said.

Eighty-six doctors and 305 other health staff fromvarious hospitals in Alappuzha, Idukki, Pathanamthitta,Ernakulam and Kottayam districts are attending to stampedevictims here.

Thirty one ambulances were deployed to bring the deadand injured ones from the spot and send them to their nativeplaces.

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