At least 145 people were killed and 50 injured in a stampede, triggered probably by the rumor of a landslide followed by the crashing of a railing at the Naina Devi Temple of Bilaspur in the Himachal Pradesh on Sunday the 3rd August. The temple is situated at a height of about 3500ft above mean sea level.
Thousands of devotees congregated and stood in serpentine line going down from the main gate of the temple and were slowly advancing towards the temple. Under severe pressure from the back of the line, the railing support gave away. As a result large number of people, mostly women, children and aged persons fell down hill resulting in the stampede.
The stampede occurred between 10.15 AM to 10.30 AM amid heavy rain. An eyewitness, a shopkeeper Vicky Kumar said, “Amid heavy rain, line of devotees were moving up when a single person started a rumor about landslide”.
As per temple authorities about 100000 (hundred thousand) devotees gathered there for a nine-day religious festival called ‘Shravan Mela’. It was the second day of the festival and being Sunday there was heavy rush. The pilgrims take a 2 Km trek or a 20minutes ropeway ride to reach the temple uphill.
As per district deputy police chief, the stampede started probably on the rumor of vast landslide at the top of the mountain, but the casualties were more because of too many people started running down on a narrow corridor.
Helicopters were deployed in the rescue work apart from a cable car, which ferried down the dead and injured who were admitted at various government and private hospitals in Punjab and Himachal Pradesh.
The Himachal government ordered a probe and declared compensations of Rs.100000 ($2500) for the dead and Rs.50000 ($1250) for severely injured and Rs.25000 for people with minor injury.
Stampede are common at Indian religious gatherings. In 1980, a stampede at the same shrine took a toll of 36 lives. Three years ago 265 people died in a stampede in Maharastra and even last month six died in stampede during ratha yatra in Puri Temple in Orrissa.