Dhaka: At least 10 Hindu pilgrims, including seven women, were killed and 50 others injured on Friday in a stampede when hundreds of thousands converged for the annual 'Ashtami Snan' on the banks of the Old Brahmaputra River outside the Bangladeshi capital.
Devotees thronged the venue of the 'Ashtami Snan' in Bandar upazila of Narayanganj early morning and the bathing started at 5:48 AM. The flow of devotees peaked within a few hours, Narayanganj Additional Superintendent of Police Mohammad Jakaria said.
Although the local administration had arranged for 16 quays for the ritual bath, the devotees had raced to 'Rajghat'. The stampede took place between 9:15 to 10AM, Jakaria said.
"Most of the victims were aged over 50 years...Seven women were among the dead in the stampede during the 'Ashtami Snan' at Langalbandh, Narayanganj," a police official said.
Officials said 10 people were killed and at least 50 devotees injured, who were rushed to nearby medical facilities for treatment.
"The incident took place when hundreds of people were trying to rush to the river from two adjacentghats (terminals) from the narrow bank...Most of the victims apparently died instantly," an eyewitness said.
Langalbandh, a Hindu holy site, is situated on the banks of the Old Brahmaputra close to the capital Dhaka. It draws thousands of devotees from Bangladesh, India and Nepal for the holy bath in the last week of March every year.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina expressed her sorrow over the deaths and sympathised with the families of the victims
Narayanganj district administration has announced Taka 25,000 (Rs 19,000) for the families of each of the deceased.
A number of eyewitnesses blamed the mismanagement of the approach and departure routes to 'Rajghat' for the deaths. Others said the lack of ambulances led to rise in the toll.
Survivors complained that volunteers and police were inadequate in number to control the devotees, resulting in the stampede.
However, Narayanganj's Additional Superintendent of Police Mohammad Mokhlesur Rahman said, "The allegations are not true. If anyone claims that police activity increased after the accident then it is not true."
"It (the bath) would continue until 6:59am on Saturday," Bashu Dev Chakravarty, General Secretary of Langalbandh Snan Udjyapan Committee, told BD News.