Indian court demands report on stampede tragedy

18:20, January 18, 2011      

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An Indian court in the southern state of Kerala Tuesday said that lack of coordination between the Kerala government and its various ministries caused the tragic stampede in Idukki district, which resulted in the death of over 100 pilgrims last Friday.

"We want to know what happened. Explain how the mishap occurred, " a two-judge Division bench of the Kerala High Court comprising Justice Thottathil Radhakrishnan and P.S. Gopinathan said.

The Kerala High Court has asked for an immediate report on the cause of the stampede.

The court has ordered Kerala Police, Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB) that runs the Sabarimala temple, and the Forest Department to file a reply in this regard.

The Court has also sought to be informed on the steps taken by the state government to provide help to the injured and also to those stranded in the area after the stampede.

There were around three lakh pilgrims at Pullumedu and there were just a few policemen and a couple of doctors to take care of them. According to pilgrims, the place where the stampede took place does not even have proper roads or communication facilities.

In fact, the forest department had warned that crowd management would be tough but the state government reportedly ignored it.

In the meantime, a police team from Karnataka's Mangalore has reached Sabarimala to assist in rest of the rescue efforts that remain to be done.

They will also keep a watch out for pilgrims from Mangalore and Dakshina Kannada. The team is headed by B.J. Bhandari, Deputy Superintendent of Police.

Those with injuries are still undergoing treatment at the nearby medical centers or at the Kottayam Medical College.

Dr. Suresh Babu, chief medical in-charge of the Vandiperiyar community health centre, recollects that when the tragedy occurred he had no time even to think, as the injured kept pouring in.

"We had posted two doctors, two paramedics and two medical assistants at Pullumedu. Once the problem started, Dr Ashok, one of the doctors, found a mobile phone with coverage in the area to inform us to gear up for large numbers," Dr. Babu recollects with horror writ large on his face.

Calling for help from nearby hospitals, Dr. Babu managed to put together a team of 25 doctors.

Another team of Second Gorkha Rifles regiment and the 16th Madras Engineering Group stationed at Thiruvananthapuram also swung into action.

Both the teams are still tending to the injured.

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