The Kerala government on Saturday declared a judicial inquiry and three-day mourning as the death toll in the stampede near the hill shrine of Sabarimala rose to 102.
Of the dead, 90 have been identified.
The hospital at the nearest town of Vandiperiyar (south-central Kerala) presented a heart-rending scene of unclaimed bodies heaped in a corner, anxious relatives searching for their kin, injured survivors writhing in pain, and pilgrims' scattered belongings thrown all round the place.
Idukki district collector Ashok Kumar Singh has submitted an initial report to the government, saying a small accident between an auto and a jeep caused commotion, triggering the stampede. Most of the victims died due to suffocation, the doctors at the hospitals said.Most of the victims are from neighbouring states Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. Of the injured, at least 40 have been admitted to hospitals in Idukki and Kottayam districts.
“I have not seen two of my relatives, including a 10-year-old boy. Please help me in tracing my relatives,” a pilgrim from Karnataka was seen pleading with a senior police officer.
Even a casual observation can see the inept security and poor infrastructure at the place, making this the third tragedy in the past 60 years.
Around two lakh pilgrims had assembled at Pulmedu (32 kms away from the hill shrine) on Friday evening, the last day of the pilgrimage.
The chain of events that led to the stampede began after the ‘makara jyoti’ around 7 pm. Since the area is in the forests (Periyar Tiger Reserve) communication facilities weren’t available and it took more than two hours for the outside world to know about the tragedy. Add to the woes only two-dozen cops were there in Pulmedu to control the pilgrims.