Sabarimala stampede:Narrow escape for 142 pilgrims from Bengal

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Kolkata, Jan 16 (PTI) Nearly 142 pilgrims from West Bengalhad a providential escape from the stampede at Pullumedu nearthe famous Sabarimala hill shrine in Kerala in which 102devotees were killed and 50 others injured.

The pilgrims, mostly senior citizens, were divided intotwo groups-- one comprising 120 and the other about 22. Thetrip was organised by Aklhila Bharatha Ayyappa Seva Sangham.

"It was a lucky decision by the pilgrims not to climb tothe hilltop shrine to witness the Makara Jyoti on Friday,"Ramakrishnan Kumar, senior manager of Dhanlaxmi Bank here, whoco-ordinated with the pilgrims, told PTI over phone.

They remained at the foot of the hill near Pampa riverto look at the auspicious star (Makaravillakku) that appearsin the sky on the evening of January 14-- a decision whichsaved their lives, he said.

The two groups had left here in the first week of Januaryreaching Palakkad on January 8 and Pampa on January 13, Kumarsaid.

They would leave the place today for Palakkad en route totheir home state.

In the worst tragedy that struck Sabarimala pilgrims in adecade, 102 people were killed while returning after darshanat the hill shrine of Lord Ayyappa on the ''makara samkarmapooja'' on Friday evening, when a jeep went out of control andploughed into devotees in a narrow forest stretch atPullumedu, triggering a stampede.

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