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Eerie silence in death lane

Curious onlookers took over the alley leading to Adalat Ghat on Tuesday, a day after 17 devotees were trampled. Few stared at shoes lying on the lane, some took a peek at the offerings stacked at a nearby temple. Neither had any claimant.

There were people on the alley. But there was an eerie silence.

The residents were shocked. Twenty-four hours after the tragedy, they were at a loss. They were yet to get out of the trauma.

The six-foot-wide lane, which leads to the ghat, was strewn with puja material, clothes and slippers. The remnants of people’s belongings lay on the narrow muddy path. Sources said many devotees threw away their puja offerings in a bid to save their lives. Even damaged asbestos sheets were visible on the 820ft-long road.

Madhukar Prabhat, one of the residents of around 50 houses at Adalat Ghat Lane, said: “I have never seen such a heart-rending incident in my life. People were not able to make even the slightest movement and the street was blocked for nearly two hours. Children were tripping in the melee but it was not possible to pick them up. Other people were stepping on them and rushing. I had to break the window of my house to let some people in. A small girl died while drinking water, moments after I pulled her inside through the window. She was in a shock.”

Ajay Kumar, another resident of Adalat Ghat Lane, said: “All that one could hear were the screams of people. The wails of children and women rent the air. The incident would haunt me for the rest of my life. The fear of death could be seen on people’s faces. They tried to climb rooftops and windows. The residents opened their doors and allowed the devotees to take shelter. To save their lives, devotees tried to barge into the houses on the lanes. My entire house was filled with people, every inch of it, including the rooftop. My house was damaged but I am glad that I could help in saving a few lives.”

The same time the next day, a neighbour of Ajay was grief-stricken but enlightened. “Nobody loves more than self. Monday’s tragedy proved it. I saw people running over kids for life.”

According to sources, not more than 10,000 devotees visit Adalat Ghat during Chhath every year. But this time nearly five lakh people had come down. “How could the authorities make a pontoon bridge at a ghat, which is connected by a 6-ft narrow road. It was because of the pontoon bridge that so many people came here. The bridge could have been installed at Collectorate Ghat or any other big ghat,” said Suresh Kumar, another resident of Adalat Ghat Lane.

Around 10.30am on Tuesday, Patna district magistrate Sanjay Kumar Singh and other officers came down to the ghat for inspection. But that was too late, too little.