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18 die in Patna Chhath crush

Patna, Nov. 19: At least 18 persons, mostly women and children, died this evening in a stampede allegedly triggered by rumours of a fallen power pole in a narrow Patna lane crammed with Chhath worshippers.

Residents of Adalat Ganj, a neighbourhood along the Ganga where the tragedy occurred in an alley barely 10 feet wide, also alleged that the administration had diverted devotees from a nearby worship site to the area and posted no police personnel to manage the combined crowd surge.

Sources said a makeshift bamboo bridge to Mahendru Ghat, the other venue 200 metres from the stampede spot, was damaged, necessitating the diversion. Prayers during the festival are offered to the Sun god along riverbanks.

“There was large rush of people in the Adalat Ganj lane. The stampede occurred after rumours that a temporary electric pole put in place to light up the lane had fallen, and people feared they would be electrocuted,” said Rajesh Kumar, an eyewitness.

Chief minister Nitish Kumar ordered a probe and a compensation of Rs 2 lakh each for the families of those who died in the tragedy.

Patna police chief Jayantkant confirmed the victims included nine children. Many of the injured were rushed to the nearby Patna Medical College and Hospital.

But the proximity seemed of little help as there were few doctors and paramedical staff at the hospital, Patna’s largest government facility.

Family members and relatives of the victims, angered by the delay in providing treatment, raised slogans against the authorities. Some allegedly smashed windowpanes at the hospital and ransacked properties. Many were seen carrying the injured to private nursing homes.

Prakash Kumar, whose sister Deepshikha Devi was grievously injured, said there was a heavy rush of people in the congested Adalat Ganj pocket. Preeti Kumari, who lost her three-and-half-year-old daughter, claimed there were no cops in the alley despite devotees being diverted.