Patna, Nov 19: At least 17 people were killed and many others injured in a stampede at Adalatghat here on the bank of river Ganga during Chhath puja on Monday evening. The stampede occurred when panicked devotees rushed for safety after a make-shift bridge caved in at the ghat. Seven casualties were reported from Patna Medical College while the corresponding figure at Arvind Hospital and Magadh Hospital stood at five each, an official spokesman said, adding that principal secretary, health, Vyasji has informed this to Chief Minister Nitish Kumar.
Kumar has directed Vyasji to establish contact with all private hospitals and clinics to get details about people undergoing treatment due to injuries sustained during the stampede, the spokesman said. Chief Secretary Ashok Kumar Sinha, meanwhile, said at a press conference late tonight that hospitals are being contacted to ascertain whether there were any more casualties.
Chief Minister Nitish Kumar told reporters that advertisements would be published asking people to inform the government if any member of their families has died in the tragedy so that compensation could be provided to them. Kumar clarified that the deaths took place not because of the cave-in, but due to people rushing out of the steep stairs a temple. People pushed each other and those who fell down were either trampled to death or were injured, the chief minister said.
He said the principal secretary, home, would conduct a probe into the tragedy so that those responsible for the tragedy would be brought to book. The Bihar government would pay a compensation of Rs two lakh to the family of the deceased, Kumar said. Of the total amount, Rs 1.5 lakh would be given from the disaster management department and the remaining Rs 50,000 would be provided from the Chief Minister's Relief Fund.
Denying reports that an electric wire above the bridge snapped and fell on devotees triggering the stampede, Kumar said he had talked to power officials who said that no such incident had taken place. Kumar said he was shocked and saddened at the tragedy that took place soon after he had reached home after inspecting arrangements at the ghats for Chhath festival.
He said he immediately directed the chief secretary, DGP Abhayanand and other top officials to rush to the spot and hospitals. The Chief Minister appealed to the media to guard against spreading rumours and making baseless claims about the toll or cause of the stampede. He also asked opposition parties not to indulge in politics in such an hour of crisis when unity is required. Kumar said peaceful conduct of next morning's 'Arghya' (holy offering) on the ghats was equally important and appealed to the devotees and their families to turn up as usual to pay their obeisance to the Sun God marking the end of the festival.
Chaotic scenes prevailed at the Patna Medical College Hospital as relatives of the victims damaged window panes of the emergency rooms alleging there were no doctors to attend to the injured. The DGP and the Principal Secretary (Health) rushed to the hospital to overlook the relief measures.
Meanwhile, out of the 17 persons killed in the stampede, the identity of 12 has been established, official sources said. They are Manju Devi (30), her son Karan (13) and daughter Nandini (1); Laxmi Devi (60), Sheela Devi (40), Kittu Kumari (4), Munni Devi (60), native of Gujarat's Vadodara town; Arti (9), Payal (10), Suman Kumar (11), Usha Hore (20) and Sharda Devi (48).