Kerala: At least 40 pilgrims are feared dead and several others injured after a stampede broke in the Sabrimala temple in Idukki district of Kerala, when a bus carrying 43 pilgrims met with an accident on late Friday night, as per the news reports.
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Collector Ashok Kumar has confirmed that atleast 40 pilgrims are feared killed in the stampede.
Stampede occurred in the interior forest route to the temple. As per the reports, the spot of the accident is a very difficult place to reach which is hindering the rescue operations.
Pilgrims from all across the nation had gathered here to offer pooja at the ‘Makarjyoti’. The incident happened while the pilgrims were returning back from the hills after the Makar Sankranti ritual.
According to reports, another tragedy occurred in Pulmedu near here when a jeep ran into a group of pilgrims when they were returning after attending the pilgrimage.
State Home Minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan termed the incident as a "big tragedy".
"I have asked the director general of police Jacob Punnoose to reach the place, but it is a serious accident and at the moment we are unable to confirm the number of casualties. This incident has taken place in an uninhabited area and no communications are possible from that area," said Balakrishnan.
Pulmedu is about 30 km from the Sabarimala temple.
Earlier in the day, lakhs of devotees converged at the hill shrine of Sabarimala where the auspicious `makara samkrama pooja` is held in every year, marking the end of the two-month-long pilgrimage to Lord Ayyappa temple.
The temple and the base camp Pampa are overflowing with devotees since the last few days, making it a challenge for police to manage the crowd.
The pooja was conducted at 6:44 pm followed by darshan of the `makarajyothi`, a flicker of light across the eastern horizon, which is considered as a divine phenomenon.
Makarasamkramam is the time when the sun moves from `dhanu rasi` (Sagittarius zodiac sign) to `Makaram rasi` (Capricorn).
Pilgrims have been camping at atop the hill in makeshift tents and shacks, with devotees from Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka forming a major chunk of them.
Police and other state agencies have been making hectic preparations since last several days to make the final phase of the event smooth and event-free, temple authorities said.
Though a meticulous traffic plan has been drawn up to avoid congestion on vital routes leading to the base camp, the onrush of pilgrims often throw up traffic blocks.
With PTI inputs