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145 killed in India temple stampede

  • Story Highlights
  • Officials: There are about 145 bodies at one hospital
  • The stampede was caused by rumors of fighting near the temple, police say
  • Witnesses, however, say railing broke, police hit fleeing worshippers with canes
  • Rescuers use cable car to evacuate injured from mountaintop temple
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NEW DELHI, India (CNN) -- A stampede at a mountaintop Hindu temple in northern India killed at least 145 people Sunday, officials said.

Witnesses and authorities had varying accounts of what caused the morning stampede at the Naina Devi Temple in Himachal Pradesh state.

Deputy Police Commissioner C.P. Verma said the stampede, which began about 10 a.m., was caused by rumors of fighting near the temple.

The rumors led to "a rush of the public in a very small place," he said.

But witnesses said the initial stampede was caused by a railing in the temple that appeared to break, causing panicked worshippers to flee.

The stampede was exacerbated by police who hit the fleeing worshippers with canes to keep them moving, witnesses said. Map of Himachal Pradesh state »

"We ask the public not to fall prey to rumors," Verma said.

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Police and Punjab Health Minister Laxmi Kanta Chawla told a CNN-IBN reporter that 145 people died and 40 were injured in the stampede.

CNN-IBN is CNN's sister network in India.

The dead were taken to a hospital in neighboring Punjab state for autopsies, authorities said.

Rescue workers used a cable car at the temple to help evacuate the injured from the mountaintop temple.

The incident came during the second day of a nine-day religious festival at the temple. The emergency rescue was hampered by a narrow road being one of the only ways to reach the temple, police said.


As the word spread about the deaths, large crowds of mourners and onlookers gathered at the base of the temple, causing police to close a section of road leading to the area.

In 2005, at least 258 people were killed during a stampede on a narrow road leading to a Hindu shrine in western India. The chaos started when a few impatient devotees started to push through the 200,000 Hindu worshippers who were making their way uphill to the Mandhara Devi shrine, authorities said.

Copyright 2008 CNN. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Associated Press contributed to this report.

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