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Police investigate Indian temple stampede

An unidentified woman is comforted after a stampede at a temple in Kunda, 180 kilometers (112 miles) southeast of Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh - March 4, 2010
Most of those gathered at the ceremony were from nearby villages

Police in India have lodged a case of criminal negligence against the managers of a Hindu temple where at least 63 people died in a stampede.

Dozens more were injured when the gate of the temple in northern Uttar Pradesh collapsed leading to a stampede.

All of the dead identified so far are women and children, police say. The temple gate was still being built.

Hundreds of people have been killed in stampedes at crowded Indian temples in recent years.

Senior police official Kunda Iqbal Singh told the BBC that investigations were under way but no-one had been arrested in connection with the incident.

Temple authorities have offered financial help to the families of the victims.

Thursday's disaster happened at a popular Ram Janaki temple in the town of Kunda in Pratapgarh district, about 25km (15 miles) north of the city of Allahabad.

The temple is owned by a Hindu holy man, Jagadguru Kripalu Ji Maharaj, who police say was marking the anniversary of the death of his wife with a ritual feast.

INDIA STAMPEDES
January 2010: Seven people die at festival on Ganges in West Bengal
September 2008: More than 220 people die at temple in Jodhpur
August 2008: At least 140 people die at temple in Himachal Pradesh
March 2008: At least eight people killed at temple in Madhya Pradesh
January 2005: Up to 300 people die on pilgrimage to Maharashtra temple

Thousands of people had gathered for the ceremonial feast and free distribution of clothes - the stampede occurred when people scrambled to collect the offerings being handed out.

Local journalists told the BBC they were mostly poor people from local villages.

Police officials said an iron gate leading to the temple complex collapsed, leading to a crowd surge.

The BBC's Ram Dutt Tripathi in the state capital, Lucknow, said the temple gate was under construction when it collapsed.

The chief minister of Uttar Pradesh state, Ms Mayawati, has ordered an inquiry into the incident.

Government officials say it appears that the organisers of the event had been unprepared to deal with the size of the crowd.

Eyewitnesses say it took a while for help to arrive and there was no-one on hand initially to offer them any assistance.

There have been a number of similar accidents in India in which large numbers of people congregate in an area ill-equipped to handle big gatherings.

In 2008, nearly 300 people were killed in stampedes and scores injured in two different Hindu temples in Rajasthan and Himachal Pradesh states.



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