11 Feb 2013

36 believed killed in Indian railway station stampede

9:30 pm on 11 February 2013

A senior police official in India says 36 people are known to have been killed in a stampede close to the world's largest religious festival, the Kumbh Mela.

The victims were among the 30 million Hindu pilgrims who had been bathing at the confluence of the Ganges and Jamuna rivers on what is considered the most auspicious day of the festival.

Railway minister Pawan Kumar Bansal says the stampede, which occurred at a railway station in the northern city of Allahabad, may have been caused by overcrowding on the platforms.

He has denied reports that it was caused when the railing of a pedestrian bridge leading to a platform collapsed on Sunday evening.

At least 31 others were injured in the stampede. Most of the victims were women and children. Officials say tens of thousands of people were at the station at the time.

Billed as the world's biggest human gathering, the BBC reports, the Kumbh Mela is held every 12 years and the number of bathers in total across its 55 days is estimated at 100 million.

The present festival is also a Maha Kumbh Mela, which comes round only once every 144 years.

Hindus believe a festival dip at Sangam - at the confluence of the Ganges, Yamuna and mythical Saraswati rivers - will cleanse sins and help bring salvation.