Dozens of religious revelers were killed on Sunday when panicked crowds caused a stampede at Hindu festival in India. The tragedy occurred on the final day of Navaratra festival, which brings nearly half a million people to the small temple at the village of Ratangarh. The stampede was triggered when thousands of pilgrims tried to quickly escape a narrow foot bridge after rumors began to spread that the bridge would soon collapse.
At last count, the death toll had reached 111, but could be much higher, as many of the victims fell, jumped, or were pushed off the bridge and may have been washed away in the river below. Al Jazeera reports that many people leapt into the water, with some mothers throwing their children over the side in the hopes of saving them.
In 2006, nearly 50 people were killed after a similar stampede in almost the exact same location, leading the original bridge to be torn and replaced. Many people are now blaming police and local authorities for exacerbating the situation with poor planning and an even poorer response. Witnesses say police attempt to control the scene charged into the crowds with batons drawn, a move that only increased the panic among people.
The incident took place on the same weekend India was hit by a major cyclone, though the Ratangarh temple was far inland and unaffected by the storm.