102 pilgrims killed in Sabarimala stampede

102 pilgrims returning from Sabarimala Ayappa temple were killed tonight when a jeep ploughed through the devotees in a forest at Pullumedu in Idukki district of Kerala, triggering a stampede.

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The tragedy occured when a jeep carrying some pilgrims waded into a crowd of devotees, who were returning from ‘makara samkrama pooja’, through a narrow trekking path in a forest, about 300km from the state capital, district administration sources said. They said at least 45 people were killed and the toll could go up.

When the jeep turned turtle, it triggered the stampede as the pilgrims ran helter skelter, the police said. Many injured persons have been admitted to nearby hospitals.State Home Minister Kodiyari Balakrishnan asked the top police brass, including the DGP, to rush to the spot.

Most of the pilgrims involved in the tragedy were from Tamil Nadu who were returning to their homes to celebrate Pongal after having a darshan of the deity at the hill shrine. The accident spot was identified at about 50 km away from Sabarimala. As per initial estimates, nearly 1.5 lakh pilgrims had left by this route for home. Relief operations have been delayed due to heavy traffic and narrow roads in the area.