India faces a day of mourning after 115 people–mostly women and children, according to one report–were killed on a bridge while leaving the Navaratra festival. Officials say an investigation is warranted, but the cause of the stampede appears to be a rumor that the bridge was about to collapse.
“I grabbed my son and ran,” Uma Devi told Indian TV. “People were pushing and screaming and trying to run away from the bridge. I don’t know how I escaped.”
Several people were crushed to death, while others jumped or were thrown to their deaths in the waters below. The festival was held in Ratangarh in Madhya Pradesh state and was in honor of the Hindu mother goddess Durga. Some 500,000 people made the pilgrimage to the temple over the course of the 10-day festival; it’s estimated that around 20,000 were on the bridge at the time of the stampede.
“The death toll has now gone up to 115 and more than 110 injured,” deputy police inspector general D. K. Arya said. “Ten of those are in a very critical state.”
Local police are coming under fire this week following reports that they charged into the crowd with batons, aggravating the situation. Arya denies those reports, however, saying the police were no match for the throng on the bridge.
“One would be stupid to use lathis on a crowd which was 25,000 strong,” he said.
The prime minister’s office issued a statement on the tragedy, saying, “On this day of festivities, our hearts and prayers are with the victims and their families.”