Kathmandu: Two people died in Nepal after being crushed under the wheels of a 10-metre-high (35-foot) wooden chariot being used during a New Year festival that descended into chaos, police said on Thursday.
Tens of thousands of devotees gathered on Wednesday in the ancient town of Bhaktapur in the Kathmandu Valley to worship Bhairav, a Hindu deity, in a celebration to mark the Nepalese New Year.
Traditionally a huge wooden chariot is pulled across a square by hundreds of people clinging on to four ropes, accompanied by a band.
The festivities got out of hand when revellers, many of them drunk, began climbing up it and jumping off.
"Two people were crushed to death by the wheels of the chariot while hundreds of devotees where pulling it. It was a total chaos," said Dilip Chaudhary, the superintendent of police in Bhaktapur.
He said eight people, including one man with critical head injuries, were being treated in a local hospital and that the death toll could rise.
"About 50,000 people had gathered and many were drunk. The crowd was uncontrolled," Chaudhary said, adding that 1,500 policemen had been deployed for the festival.
"We are planning to discuss this issue with festival organisers. Such a huge structure of wood means that safety has not been taken into account," he said.
The festival, which dates back to 14th century, is celebrated for nine days by the ethnic Newar community in Bhaktapur.