Jammu, Jan 1: Massive tragedy stuck here on New Year Eve in which 12 pilgrims died and 16 others were injured in a stampede at Jammu and Kashmir’s Mata Vaishno Devi shrine, officials said Saturday.
Official sources said that the stampede was triggered by a massive rush of devotees on the occasion of New Year at the shrine.
They said that the incident occurred around 2: 45 am in the midnight, when a large number of devotees queued to have Darshan of sanctum sanctorum inside the cave shrine on Trikuta hills in Katra ended up in a chaotic situation.
“The stampede broke out near Gate Number 3 when a huge crowd of devotees, who had come to pay their obeisance to mark the beginning of the New Year, tried to enter in Vaishno Devi Bhawan,” the officials said.
Official sources attributed construction of a new complex in Bhawan as a major reason for crowded scenes, as the construction blocked the exit route and devotees had to use the same route as exit and entry towards Bhawan.
The eight deceased were identified as Arun Pratab Singh (30), Dharam Veer Singh (35), Vineet Kumar (38) and Shamta Singh (35) of Uttar Pradesh, Vinay Kumar (24) and Sonu Panday (24) of Delhi, Mamta (38) of Haryana and Desraj Kumar (26) of Rajouri district of Jammu and Kashmir, the officials said, adding the identities of the rest are yet to be ascertained.
They said the shrine was open, and as per last reports, devotees were paying obeisance.
The police said that rescue operations started immediately after the incident and all the injured have been taken to hospitals, where the condition of some is stated to be stable while around four people have been discharged.
Meanwhile, after the incident the Jammu and Kashmir government swung into action and launched a rescue operation. The Jammu and Kashmir government also initiated a high level probe into the accident.
“A high level inquiry has been ordered into the stampede. The Inquiry Committee will be headed by Principal Secretary (Home) with ADGP, Jammu and Divisional Commissioner, Jammu as members,” officials said.
In the series of tweets Jammu and Kashmir’ Lt Governor expressed sorrow over the incident. He ordered a high-level probe and announced Rs 10 lakh Ex-gratia for the deceased.
“Deeply pained at the loss of lives due to stampede at Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine. My condolences to the families of the deceased & prayers with the injured,” the Lieutenant Governor of J&K, Manoj Sinha said in a tweet from his official handle.
He said that he spoke with the Prime Minister and “briefed him about the incident.” He further announced that an amount of Rs10 lakh each would be given to the families of those who lost their lives in the stampede and Rs 2 lakh to those injured.
He also stated that the shrine board will bear the cost of treatment.
President Ram Nath Kovind said he was distressed to know about the stampede and offered condolences to the bereaved families. “I wish speedy recovery to those injured,” he said.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is also monitoring the tragic situation, a minister in his office said.
“Extremely saddened by the loss of lives due to a stampede at Mata Vaishno Devi Bhawan,” said Prime Minister Narendra Modi, sending his “condolences to the bereaved families.”
The Prime Minister’s Office also announced an amount of Rs 2 lakh each from the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund.
The PMO said that the amount would be given to the families of those who lost their lives due to the stampede at Mata Vaishno Devi Bhawan.
The injured would be given Rs 50,000, the PM’s Office added. Defence Minister Rajnath Singh also grieved over loss of life in stampede.
Home minister Amit Shah also expressed grief over the loss of lives
“The tragedy due to a stampede at Mata Vaishno Bhawan is heart-wrenching. Anguished by the loss of lives due to it. My condolences to the bereaved families in this sad hour. Praying for the speedy recovery of the injured,” said Union Home Minister Amit Shah in a tweet.
“The tragedy due to a stampede at Mata Vaishno Bhawan is heart-wrenching. Anguished by the loss of lives due to it. My condolences to the bereaved families in this sad hour. Praying for the speedy recovery of the injured,” Rajnath Singh wrote on twitter.
Union Minister Jitendra Singh, the Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office said that PM Narendra Modi is “personally monitoring and keeping track of the tragic situation arising out of stampede at Mata Vaishno Devi shrine.”
He further stated that PM Modi has “conveyed his sympathies to bereaved families and issued instructions to provide all possible medical aid and assistance to the injured.”
Senior officials and representatives from the shrine board are at the spot.
Director General of Police Dilbag Singh who visited the spot later in the day with other civil and police officials said that a minor altercation among some young boys led to the stampede at the Mata Vaishno Devi shrine in which 12 people “unfortunately” died.
Singh said that incident was very unfortunate, and police and other officials responded to the situation in no time.
Preliminary information from the scene suggests there was an altercation among some young boys, and within seconds, there was a stampede situation, Singh said.
“Police and officials from the civil administration were quick to respond, and the order within the crowd was immediately restored, but by that time, the damage had been done,” he said.
“Immediately the injured were rushed to nearby hospitals,” the police chief said, adding that 16 people were injured.
Meanwhile, Divisional Commissioner Jammu Raghav Langer said that administration will send dead bodies of the deceased to their respective destination with full honour.
He said our priority is to take care of injured which is under treatment at Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Narayana Super Specialty Hospital, Kakryal for specialized treatment.
The Government has ordered a high level probe into this unfortunate incident by a three member team headed by the Principal Secretary Home, ADGP Jammu Zone and Divisional Commissioner Jammu. Meanwhile, the yatra is continuing in a regulated and smooth manner.
For the information of the devotees and their families back home, Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board has established a dedicated helpline, which can be approached at Phone No. 01991234804 and 01991234053.
The helplines established by the District Administration are: PCR Katra 01991-232010/ 9419145182, PCR Reasi 01991245076/ 9622856295; DC Reasi Control Room 01991-245763/ 9419839557.