Kolkata, Aug 23 (IANS) Three persons died while over two dozen were injured in a stampede early on Friday after a portion of a temple wall in West Bengal’s North 24 Parganas district collapsed, police said.
Following heavy rain, a part of the Baba Lokenath temple caved in at around 2.15 a.m. and some pilgrims, who had gathered there to offer prayers during the birth anniversary celebration of 18th century Bengali saint Lokenath Brahamachari, slipped in the slush.
“The death toll is three,” an officer manning the state police control room here told IANS. A police source said around 25 people were injured.
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who visited the Calcutta National Medical College and Hospital here said: “Amid the rain and storm, some people tried to take shelter in the stalls on the narrow lane. Some fell in the adjacent pond.
“A stampede-like situation occurred due to a panic. Some of the shops also collapsed in the heavy rain. People could not get out as the lane was narrow.”
“The temple at Kachua draws huge crowd on this occasion and the administration remains active. But this time the gathering surpassed all previous records,” she said. Although, she expressed her unhappiness over the way the annual event was managed.
State Food and Supplies Minister Jyotipriya Mallick said there were 10,000 people in the queue when the stampede occurred.
Two-three of the injured were “very serious”, the Chief Minister said. The injured were being treated also at a hospital in Basirhat of North 24 Parganas, besides three state-run medical colleges in Kolkata.
The Chief Minister has announced a compensation of Rs 5 lakh each to the families of the deceased, Rs 1 lakh for pilgrims who were critically hurt and Rs 50,000 for those with minor injuries.
The state government also announced to bear the entire medical expenses of the injured.
A managing committee member of the temple has rubbished the allegations. “We have engaged 5,000 volunteers. Both these volunteers and police were there to control the crowd,” he said.