Shimla, Aug 03: Over 120 pilgrims were killed on Sunday in a stampede at a temple located in Bilaspur district, about 160 kms from Shimla in Himachal Pradesh.
"As of now we have 123 people dead, including more than 40 children," Daljit Singh Manhas, a senior police officer said.
"The injured have been taken to two places and the toll could be more as we are awaiting news from other hospitals," Manhas added.
He said at least 45 women were among the dead. Children were among the first to fall to the ground and were trampled by pilgrims running to safety, even as their parents tried to save them, police officers said.
The bodies, mostly of people from Patiala, reached Bhai Jaitta civil hospital in Anandpur Sahib, Punjab, which is about 40 km from the temple site, for post mortem, Ropar Deputy Commissioner B Purshartha told reporters.
Rumours of a landslide and rolling down of stones from a nearby hilltop led to a commotion which apparently caused the stampede as a large number of pilgrims tried to push their way causing collapse of a railing along the four-km trek to the temple.
The pilgrims had gathered to offer prayers on the occasion of 'Navratra'. The incident that took place around 1000 hrs, Additional District Magistrate C P Verma told reporters from the spot, about 50 kms from district headquarters of Bilaspur.
Officials said the stampede took place as there was sudden rush at a point along the temple trek caused by people returning from the hilltop shrine and those going up.
"The stampede happened after a railing fell. People started running here and there," Himachal Pradesh government's Principal Secretary P C Kapoor said.
"It is presumed that most of the people there are from neighbouring Punjab and Himachal Pradesh," he said.
Superintendent of Police K K Indoria and other senior civil and police officials were at the spot to supervise the relief work which was hampered due to rain. The temple of under government control.
A temple functionary said devotees with minor injuries have been sent to a hospital in nearby Dawar Chowk while those with serious injuries were being sent to hospitals in Punjab's Anandpur Sahib.