Vandiperiyar (Kerala): The toll in a stampede of
pilgrims in Kerala's Idukki district rose to 97 Saturday after
more bodies were recovered. The stampede occurred when the
pilgrims were returning after watching the celestial Makara Jyothi
light, the most important event of the pilgrimage, from a hillock
some 30 km from the Sabarimala temple.
The stampede occurred around 8.00 p.m. Friday in Pulumedu, a
forested area about 10 km from the Vandiperiyar town, and about 30
km from the Sabarimala temple in Pathanamthitta district.
Idukki Congress MP P.T. Thomas confirmed that so far 71 bodies
have reached the Vandiperiyar hospital, where all the bodies are
being brought, and the remaining are being transported from the
accident site. The injured are being treated in various hospitals.
"We are being told the gruesome accident took place around 8.00
p.m. at Pulumedu. The entire place was full of vehicles and more
than a lakh of pilgrims were returning from a hillock after seeing
the celestial light that appeared on the horizon soon after 7 p.m.
"Suddenly a jeep which broke down lost control and went into the
waiting pilgrims and this created a panic causing a stampede,"
The pilgrims are mostly from Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and
Over the past few years, following the huge influx of pilgrims
from the Thekkady side, Pulumedu has become a point for these
pilgrims to witness the celestial light.
State Ports Minister V. Surendran Pillai, who reached the
Vandiperiyar hospital early Saturday, said that the number of
victims, including those injured, are currently being ascertained.
"Today what will happen is that the bodies of those who lost their
lives will have to be transported to their homes. The state
government will decide on how this has to be done," said Pillai.
Pamba, the base camp to the Sabarimala temple, has been
overflowing with pilgrims since the past few days.
Leader of opposition Oommen Chandy, who cancelled his statewide
yatra after the accident, also visited the Vandiperiyar hospital.
He said that a detailed probe has to be launched to find out what
led to this tragedy.
Director General of Police Jacob Punnoose who visited the hospital
said that to reach the accident site is a laborious task because
there is only a narrow road that leads to the site. "Since it is
pitch dark in the area, rescue operations is taking a lot of
time," said Punnoose.
Defence Minister A.K. Antony said this is one of the worst
tragedies the country has seen. "I have directed the defence
(forces) to see that all the help be provided." He said it is a