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At least 19 people were killed in a stampede at Rajghat bridge between Varanasi and Chandauli on Saturday afternoon, according to news agency ANI. The incident took place when thousands of followers of religious leader Jai Gurudev were on their way to Domri village on the banks of Ganga to take part in the two-day camp, police said. Senior officials of police and administration have rushed to the spot to carry out relief and rescue measures. Meanwhile, a government spokesman in Lucknow said that the situation in Chandauli is being monitored and all necessary measures were being taken. An inquiry will be instituted to find out the cause of the stampede, he said.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is also a local MP from Varanasi, expressed sadness at the loss of lives. In a statement, Modi said, “Deeply saddened by the loss of lives in the stampede in Varanasi. Condolences to the bereaved families. Prayers with those injured.” He further added, “I have spoken to officials & asked them to ensure all possible help to those affected due to the stampede in Varanasi.” The prime minister also announced an ex-gratia of Rs 2 lakh each to next of kin of those killed and Rs 50,000 to those injured.
Varanasi is PM Modi’s Lok Sabha constituency since 2014.
In the meantime, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav has also announced Rs 2 lakhs each for kin of those killed and Rs 50,000 each for the critically injured. Uttar Pradesh IG (Law and Order) Hari Ram Sharma said: “19 casualties-14 females and 5 males. Two injured women are being treated in hospital.” Sharma added that the incident will be probed as to who is responsible, arrangements for crowd control and the lapses.
The incident took place as people were brought for the camp in large numbers whereas permission was taken for a
limited number of people, ADG (law and order) Daljit Chaudhary said in Lucknow. “One person died of suffocation because of the surging crowd on the narrow bridge. This led to rumours which resulted in the stampede,” Chaudhary said, adding that the number of casualties could go up.
Eyewitnesses ANI spoke to said, “There was a lot of chaos, even we were pushed. Many people have died including my mother.”
This is a developing story. Further details are awaited.
(With inputs from ANI)