Survivors of Cyclone Phailin
Survivors of Cyclone Phailin Reuters

At least 115 pilgrims, including 30 children, were killed Sunday, and more than were 100 injured, in a stampede on a narrow bridge to the historic Ratangarh temple in Datia district of Madhya Pradesh on Sunday, reported the Times of India (TOI).

"We have counted 100 bodies so far. Several pilgrims died on way to hospital. The toll may rise manifold," a senior police officer told TOI. "The toll could touch 120. We are yet to recover bodies from the river," said another official.

A similar tragedy occurred at the same site in 2006, when 50 pilgrims died.

The bridge that leads to the temple, which passes over the swollen Sindh river was teeming with more than 100,000 devotees, when a rumor about an imminent collapse of the bridge after a police baton charge on devotees triggered panic.

Scores of pilgrims were trampled, and others were drowned after jumping into the swollen river. “Bodies lay sprawled on the bridge even as rescue teams from Gwalior were delayed due to battered roads and a 10-km traffic jam,” reported TOI.

Chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan has ordered a judicial inquiry into the tragedy and Congress president Sonia Gandhi has expressed her anguish over the tragedy. The Ratangarh temple is located 405 km north of Bhopal.

Meanwhile, about half a million people were evacuated from the southeastern Indian coast as Cyclone Phailin hit the coastal towns at Orissa. A similar storm in 1999 killed more than 10,000 in the state, but according to officials only 15 deaths were recorded in the present storm.

The cyclone’s intensity was described as “still strong,” but Sharat Sahu of the Indian Meteorological Department said it had “weakened considerably" after its landfall in Orissa. 

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