23 pilgrims died of cardiac arrest while trekking to Sabarimala since Nov 17: TDB
The Travancore Devasom Board (TDB) said this is the highest toll during the first month of the annual pilgrimage season
Twenty-three pilgrims have died of cardiac arrest while trekking to Sabarimala hill temple in Kerala since the annual pilgrimage season began on November 17, according to the statistics with the Travancore Devasom Board (TDB), which manages the day to day affairs of the temple. The TDB said this is the highest toll during the first month of the annual pilgrimage season.
The TDB and medical experts blamed Covid-19 and its after effects for the surge but many Hindu outfits alleged that poor medical facilities at the base camps and the hilltop led to the high number of deaths this time.
Among 23, seven are from Kerala and others belonged to neighbouring states. A senior official of the TDB said every season 20-30 people die due to heart attack but this time the number was quite high in the first month of the season. The pilgrimage season ends on January 20. In the last full-fledged season in 2019, 26 deaths were reported, he said. In 2020, pilgrims were not allowed due to pandemic and in 2021 the pilgrimage was restored partly.
The TDB said more than 30,000 medical cases were reported in 15 medical centres in the base camps and on the way to the hill temple and out of this 450 were emergency cases. It said currently more than 200 pilgrims were undergoing treatment in various hospitals and emergency cases were referred to the Kottayam medical college hospital, 50 km away from the shrine.
Another senior official of the TDB, who did not want to be named, said they usually put out warnings and announcements discouraging pilgrims with serious heart ailments but many ignore them and undertake steep trekking to the temple. “Some studies have shown cardiac incidents have gone up after the pandemic outbreak especially in young and middle-aged people. Serious physical activities and trekking complicate the issue,” said internal medicine and public health expert Dr N M Arun.
But many Hindu organisations said this time arrangements were really poor and makeshift hospitals were set up a week after the pilgrimage season began. “It is easy to blame Covid-19 but arrangements were really lacking. The intervention of the high court saved the situation several times. The TDB only eyes revenue,” alleged Hindu Munnani leader I V Babu. Many voluntary outfits also said medical arrangements were not proportionate with the surging number of pilgrims. After the high court direction the TDB was forced to cap the daily footfall to 90,000 after the trekking route witnessed stampede-like situations on a number of occasions.