A stampede at a popular Hindu shrine in Indian-controlled Kashmir on New Year’s Day killed at least 12 people and injured 13 others, officials said.
n investigation has been ordered into what caused the stampede early on Saturday at the Mata Vaishnav Devi shrine, where thousands of Hindu devotees had gathered to pay their respects in the hilly town of Katra, near southern Jammu city.
Mahesh, a devotee who gave only one name, said the stampede occurred near one of the gates where pilgrims entered and left the route to the shrine.
“Something happened near one of the gates and I found myself under a crush of people. I suffocated and fell but somehow managed to stand up,” he said.
“I saw people moving over the bodies. It was a horrifying sight, but I managed to help in rescuing some injured people.”
Another devotee named Priyansh said he and 10 friends from New Delhi arrived on Friday night to visit the shrine. He said two of his friends had died in the incident.
“I have never seen anything like this,” he said.
Indian Prime Minster Narendra Modi expressed his condolences in a message on Twitter.
“Extremely saddened by the loss of lives due to a stampede,” he wrote.
Pilgrims often trek on foot to reach the hilltop temple, which is one of the most visited shrines in northern India.
Deadly stampedes are fairly common during Indian religious festivals, as large crowds, sometimes in their millions, gather in small areas with few safety or crowd control measures.
In 2013, pilgrims visiting a temple for a popular Hindu festival in India’s central Madhya Pradesh state stampeded amid fears that a bridge would collapse, and at least 115 people were crushed to death or died in the river below.
More than 100 Hindu devotees died in 2011 in a stampede at a religious festival in the southern Indian state of Kerala.