Barasat/Kolkata: The number of deaths in the stampede at Kochua Loknath Temple in North 24-Parganas district has gone up.
Earlier in the day Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had said that two pilgrims have died in the stampede. But it now stands that the number of deaths is four.
The deceased have been identified as Aparna Sarkar (35) of Matia, Kaushik Barui of Nazat, Tarun Mondal of Hansnabad and Purnima Gharai (60) of Rajarhat. All the places are located in North 24-Parganas district.
Kochua, about 52-km from Kolkata, is the birthplace of 18th century Bengali sage popularly known as Baba Loknath.
A large number of pilgrims from different parts of Bengal had gone there last night to offer puja at the Kochua Loknath Temple on the occasion of Janmasthami.
A narrow road, with a high wall on one side and a pond on the other side, leads to the temple. Makeshift vendor stalls had been set up along the pond-end of the road.
Around 2 am today 23 August, a large number of pilgrims tried to reach the temple at one go and under the pressure of the crowd the guard wall along the pond and some makeshift stalls collapsed.
Seeing this, the pilgrims panicked and tried to leave the spot in a hurry. This led to a stampede and around 18 people got injured.
They were rescued by volunteers deployed by the temple committee and rushed to different hospitals including RG Kar Medical College, National Medical College and SSKM Hospital in Kolkata.
Four among the injured were subsequently declared dead at the hospitals. The Chief Minister went to National Medical and SSKM Hospital around noon to enquire about the health of those injured.
She announced Rs 5-lakh compensation to the family of the deceased, Rs 1-lakh for critical injured and Rs 50,000 for those having minor injury.
The injured admitted to hospitals in Kolkata and Basirhat are either from North 24-Parganas or from East Burdwan district.
State food minister Jyotipriyo Mullick visited the accident spot later in the day and blamed the temple committee for mismanagement leading the tragic incident.
“The temple compound is under the purview of the temple committee and they should have taken adequate measures to avoid such a situation. Despite the road being narrow, why vendor stalls were allowed on the pond-bank?” he asked.
Mullick said that the state government will rebuild the road and put checks in place so that only one pilgrim can enter and come out of the temple premises at a time.
Blaming state government for the mishap, Bengal BJP president Dilip Ghosh has demanded a high-level probe into this.
“Paying compensation alone is not enough. The state government shall have to admit its negligence on the matter. The administration should have ensured security and drinking water for the pilgrims.”