At least seven pilgrims - six women and a child - were killed and 12 others injured on Thursday in a stampede that occurred while they were trying to board a boat to go for a holy dip to the annual Ganga Sagar fair in West Bengal's south 24 Parganas district, police said.
The incident took place at one of the jetties at which the pilgrims get into boats and cross the river to Kachuberia and then go to Sagar island where the Ganga flows into the Bay of Bengal, about 80 km south of Kolkata.
South 24 Parganas district magistrate Khalil Ahmed, who put the number of those injured at nine, said a large number of pilgrims tried to board a boat at jetty number three, which triggered the stampede.
The pilgrims had been warned not to board any vessel because of the low tide, an official at the state police control room told IANS.
"The incident happened at around 4.30-5 a.m. In their mad rush to get into the vessel, they broke a barricade. Some old women fell down. We always advise each group of pilgrims to keep women and children in the middle. But apparently this was not done," Ahmed said.
"The seven dead included six women and a child," he said.
The injured have been admitted to Kakdweep Hospital and Diamond Harbour Sub-Divisional Hospital. Some of them are in serious condition.
He said more than 700,000 people have already converged at the famous Hindu pilgrim spot to take a holy dip at the confluence of the Ganga and the Bay of Bengal on the occasion of Makar Sankranti and to pray at the Kapil Muni Temple.
Movement of boats at the jetty was stopped for two hours after the mishap.