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Varanasi death toll rises to 25, seven injured still in critical condition

Uttar Pradesh chief minister announces Rs1m ex gratia to victims’ kin and suspends five senior district officials

Gulf News

Varanasi: The death toll in Saturday’s stampede here in Uttar Pradesh has risen to 25, with one of the injured succumbing to his injuries overnight, police said on Sunday.

Authorities meanwhile said 20 of the dead had been identified. And seven of the injured were still in critical condition in hospital.

Police officials said they were trying to ascertain the identity of the remaining five dead. More than 50 people were being treated at various medical facilities in the temple town.

The stampede occurred at the 130-year-old Raj Ghat bridge on the banks of river Ganga where a religious congregation was to be presided by Acharya Pankaj Baba, disciple of late Jai Gurudev, a religious and spiritual leader from Mathura.

The victims include 20 women and five men, police officer Anil Kumar Singh said.

On the second day of the congregation on Sunday, Pankaj Baba paid tributes to those who died in the tragedy and they were ‘Satsangi Shaheed’ (Spiritual Matryrs).

The dead have been identified as Naval Kishore Mishra, Savitri Mishra, Rajwati, Ramwati, Sumitra and Vimla Devi from Delhi, Rampatti Devi, Dashtarth Singh, Prithvipal Singh, Israti Devi, Susheela Devi and Mallu Devi from Rajasthan, as well as Prithvipal, Ashok Kumar, Kamlesh Devi, Kamini, Sarla Devi, Sohanlal, Indu and Keshwati from Madhya Pradesh.

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav has announced an ex gratia of Rs1 million (Dh55,054) to the dependants of those killed and Rs50,000 each to those injured. He has also suspended five senior district officials, including the Superintendent of Police (City) of Varanasi and the traffic in-charge.

The Divisional Commissioner of Varanasi has been asked to get a magisterial probe conducted into the reasons behind the tragedy.

The Prime Minister’s Office is monitoring the treatment of the injured, an official said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi represents Varanasi in the Lok Sabha.

The stampede occurred at around 1.30pm as thousands of people took out a procession.

Police attributed the stampede to the “impatience” among the participants due to the prevailing heat and humidity.

Varanasi District Magistrate Vijay Kiran Anand blamed Acharya Pankaj, the successor of Jai Gurudev and the organiser of the two-day congregation in Domri village.

“The organisers had told us that 3,000 people would come but over 300,000 turned up,” he said.

Pankaj Das in turn blamed the administration for failing to take proper measures.