JODHPUR, India – False rumors of a bomb was the cause of the deadly stampede of thousands of pilgrims at a Hindu temple in western India yesterday, witnesses said. At least 168 people died in the crush to escape.
The disaster occurred just as the doors of the temple were being opened for worship at dawn for more than 12,000 people celebrating a key Hindu festival in the historic city of Jodhpur in Rajasthan state.
The chaos began with false rumors of a bomb, said Ramesh Vyas, a pilgrim who was standing in line.
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Tension is high because India has been hit by a spate of bomb attacks. The latest explosions Monday night in the western cities of Malegaon and Modasa killed six people and wounded 45.
Devotees had broken coconuts as religious offerings and so the temple's floors were slick with coconut milk, causing pilgrims to slip and fall as they scrambled to escape, Vyas said.
Other pilgrims had crammed a narrow path leading to the temple, leaving little room for those fleeing to escape.
The chaos was made worse by the fact there was a power outage at the time.
The temple is located inside the 15th-century Mehrangarh fort that overlooks the town.
It was the third disaster this year at religious events in India, shocking Hindus as yesterday marked the first day of Navratra, a nine-day Hindu festival to honor the Mother Goddess.