A dozen pilgrims were killed in a stampede, Saturday, at the Mata Vaishnav Devi shrine in Kashmir

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At least 12 people were killed and others 16 injured on the New Year’s Day in a stampede which occurred near one of the gates where pilgrims entered and exited the route to the Mata Vaishnav Devi shrine in the hilly town of Katra near southern Jammu city in Indian-controlled Kashmir. Thousands of Hindu devotees were gathered when the incident occurred, at one of the most visited shrines in northern India. Before the pandemic, every day about 100,000 devotees would trek up a steep winding track to the narrow cave containing the shrine to Vaishno Devi, about 60km from the city of Jammu. The stampede happened around 2:30 a.m. local time Saturday. “People fell over each other … It was difficult to figure out whose leg or arms were tangled with whose,” a witness described. Ambulances arrived after about half an hour. Rescue operations started immediately. Police chief Dilbag Singh said that authorities were quick to respond and the order within the crowd was immediately restored. The pilgrimage resumed after nearly four hours.

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Indian Prime Minster Narendra Modi expressed his condolences in a message on Twitter: „Extremely saddened by the loss of lives due to a stampede at Mata Vaishno Devi Bhawan. Condolences to the bereaved families. May the injured recover soon.” The cause of the stampede has not yet been established. An inquiry has been ordered by Lieutenant Governor of Jammu and Kashmir Manoj Sinha. Deadly crowd surges are fairly common during Indian religious festivals.