Hadhraz stampede: At least 121 people, mostly women and children, were killed in the deadly event

HADRAS, India (AP) — Severe congestion and a lack of exits A crowd at a religious festival In northern India, authorities said Wednesday, killing at least 121 people, chaos erupted as worshipers rose up to the preacher to touch him.

Five of them died As of Wednesday morning, local official Manish Chaudhary said another 28 people were still being treated in hospital.

Deadly jams are relatively common In Indian religious festivals, large crowds gather in small areas with poor infrastructure and few security measures.

About a quarter of a million people He had come to the event Only 80,000 people were allowed to stay on Tuesday. It is not clear how many people entered the giant tent set up in a muddy field in a village in Uttar Pradesh’s Hadhras district.

It is also not clear what triggered the panic. But state Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath told reporters that a crowd rushed towards the preacher to touch him as he stepped down from the platform, and volunteers scrambled to intervene.

An initial police report said thousands of people crowded the exits and many slipped on the muddy floor, causing them to fall and be crushed by the crowd. Most of the dead were women.

Chaos continued outside the tent as the Hindu guru, locally known as Bole Baba, left in a vehicle as his followers ran back. According to officials, his security personnel pushed the crowd back, causing more people to fall.

Authorities are investigating and looking for the preacher and other organizers.

Adityanath said a retired judge had ordered an inquiry into the death on Tuesday.

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The police registered a case of culpable homicide against the two organizers but acquitted the preacher. The maximum sentence for culpable homicide in India is life imprisonment.

Binod Chogna, who lost his mother, daughter and wife, broke down in tears as he left the mortuary on Wednesday.

“My son called me and said, ‘Dad, mom is not here now. Come here immediately.’ My wife is no more,” he cried.

The preacher’s Sri Jagat Guru Baba organization had been preparing for the event for more than two weeks.

Guru’s followers – from across India’s most populous state of more than 200 million people – made their way to the village in 3 kilometers (almost 2 miles) long lines of vehicles.

State official Ashish Kumar said there was not enough exit in the sprawling tent. It is not clear how many there were.

Experts said the incident violated safety regulations. “The ceremony was held in a makeshift tent without ensuring multiple exits,” disaster management expert Sanjay Srivastava said.

On Tuesday, hundreds of relatives gathered at local hospitals and mourned the sight of the dead, placed on stretchers and covered with white sheets in the grounds outside. Buses and trucks took dozens to morgues.

Sonu Kumar was one of the many locals who helped lift and move the dead bodies after the disaster. He criticized the preacher: “He sat in his car and drove away. His devotees fell upon one another here.

“The screams are very heart-wrenching. We have never seen anything like this in our village before,” Kumar added.

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In 2013, pilgrims visiting a temple for a popular Hindu festival in Madhya Pradesh state trampled each other amid fears a bridge might collapse. At least 115 people were crushed or died in the river.

In 2011, more than 100 people died during a religious festival in the southern state of Kerala.

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Banerjee reports from Lucknow, India. Associated Press writer Kritika Pati contributed from New Delhi.

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Associated Press religion coverage is supported by AP’s collaboration with The Conversation US, with funding from the Lilly Endowment Inc. AP is solely responsible for this content.

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