Patna: At least 32 people were killed and over 50 were injured after a stampede broke out during the ‘Ravan Dahan’ at a park in the heart of Bihar’s capital Patna. Officials said the incident took place at the historic Gandhi Maidan shortly after 7pm. Over 50,000 people had gathered to witness the burning of Ravana’s effigy, a ceremony that marks the end of the Navratras.
The government has ordered an inquiry by the principal secretary, home and announced compensation of Rs 3 lakh to families of those killed.
The Centre also announced an ex-gratia of Rs. 2 lakh to the next of kin of the deceased and a compensation of Rs. 50,000 for critically injured.
Amir Subhani, the principal secretary of the state’s home department confirmed 32 casualties.
Identity of the deceased was yet to be ascertained.
Reports said the stampede took place after a rumour spread that a livewire had snapped and fallen to the ground. Panicked attendees rushed towards the sole exit gate, which led to the stampede.
The poor illumination at Gandhi Maidan added to the chaos.
The scene at the Patna Medical College Hospital (PMCH), where the injured had been admitted, was tense as the hospital had run out of medicines.
People had gathered outside the central casualty of the hospital in large number, but were unable to get any information about the dead or the injured.
The police have blocked the entry of people to the stretch now.
Slippers, shoes and footwear were seen strewn on a 500 metre stretch as people tried to flee from the scene.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed his condolences and spoke to the Bihar chief minister to enquire about the stampede.
“The stampede in Patna is deeply saddening. I spoke to the Bihar CM about the situation.My condolences to the families of those who lost their lives and prayers with the injured,” he tweeted.
The stampede in Patna is deeply saddening. I spoke to the Bihar CM about the situation.
My condolences to the families of those who lost their lives and prayers with the injured.
Congress President Sonia Gandhi also expressed “shock and grief” over the deaths and injuries.
“Dismayed at the unfortunate incident, Gandhi expressed the hope that the injured are being adequately attended to and conveyed her condolences to the families of those who passed away,” a Congress statement said.
Union minister and Lok Janshakti Party leader Ram Vilas Paswan has sought a probe by the ministry of home affairs (MHA) into the administrative lapses, leading to the stampede.
Talking to ANI in New Delhi, he said that the MHA should seriously ponder about conducting an inquiry into today’s stampede as well as the one last year during the Chhath festival. He said he would travel down to Patna on Saturday.
BJP leader CP Thakur, who visited the hospital, said: “Prima facie the stampede appears to be due to administrative lapses.”
Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad, in a tweet, squarely blamed the state government for administrative failure, leading to the stampede.
This is the second festival-time tragedy to hit the state in less than a year. During Chhath festival last year, 21 people were killed when they were run over by a train.
“No preparation was in place to account for the mass exit from the venue by thousands of thousands from a single gate, in darkness, at the same time”, said a man present at the spot.
Even though there are several exit gates at Gandhi Maidan, only one – the southern gate — was being used, reports claimed.
The Gandhi Maidan has a capacity to accommodate up to 4.5 – 5 lakh people. It is the same venue where a series of explosions took place during the Lok Sabha campaign event of Prime Minister Narendra Modi that left six dead.
(With inputs from agencies)