- Heavy rush of devotees on the first day of the year led to the stampede, authorities said
- Several of those injured were being treated at the ICU of a nearby hospital
- The Vaishno Devi yatra was halted for a short period of time and was later resumed
At least 12 people were killed, while over a dozen were injured after a stampede occurred at the famous Mata Vaishno Devi shrine in Jammu and Kashmir's Katra in the wee hours of Saturday. According to the officials, a heavy rush of devotees led to the incident. Commenting on the situation, Jammu and Kashmir Director General of Police Dilbag Singh today said preliminary information from the scene suggests there was a minor altercation among some young boys, and within seconds, there was a stampede situation.
"Police and officials of the civil administration were quick to respond, and the order within the crowd was immediately restored, but by that time, the damage had been done," he said.
Vaishno Devi stampede: What happened at the shrine
The stampede occurred around 2.30 am near gate number three outside the sanctum sanctorum of the shrine located atop the Trikuta hills, about 50 km from Jammu. Jammu and Kashmir DGP Dilbag Singh said there was a minor altercation among some young boys and a stampede situation was witnessed soon after.
Senior officials present at the scene said 12 people died in the stampede and their bodies were taken to a hospital in the Katra base camp for identification.
Fifteen injured were undergoing treatment at the Mata Vaishno Devi Narayana Superspeciality Hospital and the condition of two of them was stated to be critical.
Some were discharged after first-aid, they added.
According to an eye-witness statement, there was a heavy rush of devotees and some people who were sleeping on the floor got crushed.
Vaishno Devi stampede: List of deceased released
Union Minister Jitendra Singh, who had rushed to Katra soon after knowing about the incident, later took to Twitter and released lists of deceased and injured in the stampede incident. Officials had said the casualties were from Delhi, Punjab, Haryana and from Jammu and Kashmir.
Eight of the deceased were identified as Dheeraj Kumar (26), Sheweta Singh (35), Viney Kumar (24), Sonu Pandey (24), Mamta (38), Dharmveer Singh (35), Vaneet Kumar (38) and Arun Pratap Singh (30).
The identities of the rest were yet to be ascertained.
Devotees usually trek to the hilltop shrine from the Katra base camp, a distance of nearly 13 km, while some reach there by helicopters. The yatra, which was briefly halted following the incident was later resumed.
Prime Minister Modi expresses grief on the incident; announces ex-gratia
Taking to Twitter, Prime Minister Narendra Modi today expressed grief over the incident and offered condolences to the bereaved families.
"Extremely saddened by the loss of lives due to a stampede at Mata Vaishno Devi Bhawan. Condolences to the bereaved families. May the injured recover soon. Spoke to JK LG Shri @manojsinha_ Ji, Ministers Shri @DrJitendraSingh Ji, @nityanandraibjp Ji and took stock of the situation," the prime minister said on Twitter.
The prime minister also announced an ex-gratia of Rs 2 lakh each from PMNRF to the next of kin of those who lost their lives due to the stampede at Mata Vaishno Devi Bhawan. Those injured would be given Rs 50,000, the prime minister said.
"An ex-gratia of Rs 2 lakh each from PMNRF would be given to the next of kin of those who lost their lives due to the stampede at Mata Vaishno Devi Bhawan in Katra, J&K. The injured would be given Rs. 50,000," said the Prime Minister's Office through Twitter.
Jammu & Kashmir LG announces ex-gratia; orders high-level inquiry
Following the incident of stampede at Mata Vaishno Devi shrine today, Lt. Governor of Jammu and Kashmir announced an ex-gratia of Rs 10 lakh each to the next of kin of those who lost their lives, along with Rs 2 lakh to those injured.
"Ex-gratia of Rs.10 lakh each would be given to the next of kin of those who lost their lives due to stampede and Rs.2 lakh to injured. Shrine board to bear the cost of treatment of injured," the J&K LG wrote on Twitter.
The LG also said he has spoken to Home Minister Amit Shah and has briefed him about the incident. A high-level inquiry has been ordered, which will be headed by Principal Secretary (Home) with ADGP, Jammu and Divisional Commissioner, Jammu as members, he added.