22 pilgrims killed in Andhra stampede

Vijayawada, July 14 (IANS) At least 22 pilgrims, mostly women, were killed and 20 others injured in a stampede during Godavari pushkaralu in Rajahmundry in Andhra Pradesh on Tuesday, officials said.

The tragedy occurred when a large number of pilgrims rushed towards one of the gates and tried to scale it at Kotagummam pushkar ghat on the banks of Godavari river to take the holy dip.

Chaos prevailed at all the three gates at the bathing ghat in Rajahmundry, a town in East Godavari district.

The toll may further go up as some bodies were still believed to be lying at the spot.

The bodies of victims were shifted to Rajahmundry government hospital. The injured were also brought to the hospital, where the condition of some of them is stated to be critical.

Tragedy struck couple of hours after Godavari maha pushkaralu, a once in 144-year event, began on Tuesday morning.

The 12-day pushkaralu, described as Kumbh mela of the south, began in both Telangana and Andhra Pradesh.

Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu, who had a holy dip in Rajahmundry Tuesday morning, rushed to a control room to monitor the situation.

He appealed to people to follow queues to entry and exit points. He also requested the pilgrims to move to other ghats.

The failure of authorities to anticipate the huge crowds at the ghat and lack of proper arrangements to regulate the pilgrims led to the tragedy.

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