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Wed Mar 04 06:20:13 CAT 2015

At least 18 dead in stampede at massive Indian Hindu festival

Reuters | 10 February, 2013 20:39
A sadhu or Hindu holy man shouts while holding a
A sadhu or Hindu holy man shouts while holding a "trishul" or trident-shaped weapon after taking a dip during the second "Shahi Snan" (grand bath), of the ongoing "Kumbh Mela" or Pitcher Festival in the northern Indian city of Allahabad February 10, 2013. Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims take a bracing plunge in India's sacred Ganges river to wash away lifetimes of sins, in an ever-growing religious gathering that is already the world's largest.
Image by: ADNAN ABIDI / REUTERS

At least 18 people were killed in a stampede in the Indian city of Allahabad on Sunday as Hindus returned from a river dip at the world's largest religious festival.

An overcrowded railway station footbridge buckled and a railing collapsed, sending some people slipping down the stairs and triggering the stampede, a top state government official told Reuters, not wishing to be quoted by name.

"I can confirm that 18 people have died and 13 have been injured," said the official.

Once every 12 years, tens of millions of pilgrims stream across India to the small northern city of Allahabad for the Maha Kumbh Mela, or Grand Pitcher Festival, at the point where the Ganges and Yamuna rivers meet a third, mythical river.

In the two months from the start of the festival in January, officials believe as many as 100 million people will have passed through a temporary city that covers an area larger than Athens on a wide sandy river bank.

Hindu holy men and pilgrims bathe in the sacred Ganges to wash away lifetimes of sins. Sunday was believed to be the most auspicious day of the festival.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh expressed shock at the tragedy and promised financial assistance to the families of the dead.

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