A rush to a popular Hindu shrine in Indian-controlled Kashmir killed at least 12 people and injured 13 others on New Year’s Day, officials said.
An investigation into the causes of the rush early Saturday was ordered at Mata Vaishnav Devi Shrine, where thousands of Hindu devotees gathered to pay their respects in the hilly city of Katra, near the southern city of Jammu.
Mahesh, a follower who gave only one name, said the onslaught occurred near one of the gates through which pilgrims entered and exited the path to the shrine.
“Something happened near one of the gates and I found myself in a crowd of people. I suffocated and fell, but somehow managed to get up, ”he said. “I saw people moving over the corpses. It was a terrible sight, but I managed to save some of the injured. “
Another supporter named Priyansh said he and ten friends from New Delhi arrived Friday night to visit the shrine and that two of his friends died in the incident.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” he said.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed condolences in a message on Twitter.
“Extremely saddened by the loss of life to a mass onslaught,” Modi wrote.
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Pilgrims often hike on foot to reach the temple on the hill, which is one of the most visited shrines in northern India.
Deadly rushes are quite common during Indian religious festivals as large crowds, sometimes in the millions, gather in small areas with few security or crowd control measures.
In 2013, pilgrims visiting a temple for a popular Hindu festival in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh feared a bridge might collapse and at least 115 people were crushed to death or died in the river below.
More than 100 Hindu believers died in a rush to a religious festival in the southern Indian state of Kerala in 2011.