The Telegraph
Wednesday , November 21 , 2012
Since 1st March, 1999
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Race for life sparks panic

- Tragedy at Chhath venue

Aman Kumar had come home to Patna to celebrate Chhath. But for the 21-year-old student of GL Bajaj Institute of Technology and Management, Noida, the festivities turned into a nightmare on Monday.

Aman, along with his family, had gone to pray at Adalatganj Ghat where a stampede claimed 17 lives. The aspiring techie and his family managed to escape with their lives but were emotionally scarred by the tragedy. He recalled the scary incidents for The Telegraph on Tuesday.

Last evening, around 5.30, my mother, brother and I were standing at the ghat, performing the rituals of Pehli Arghya. Suddenly, I heard a commotion and turned around to see that a bamboo bridge, around 50m away, was falling down.

Within a minute it had caved in and people were running everywhere.

As soon as the bridge collapsed, panic gripped the revellers. There was utter confusion and pandemonium all around.

We heard some people saying that a naked wire was dangling in front of the bridge and devotees could get electrocuted. (We learnt later that there was no such threat)

At that time, however, no volunteer was deployed at the site by the district administration. There was no one to help or guide the devotees to safety. Without a clue about what had occurred, the devotees panicked. As I was at the spot, I realised that the tragedy could have been averted if people had waited at the ghat instead of trying to get out. But there was no one to guide them and they were blinded by fear.

Some of them began to run towards the pontoon bridge nearby. Many of them were carrying children. As there was a mad rush and lot of pushing and shoving, some people fell down and were hurt. Every one was scared and wanted to save themselves and their family. My mother (Sunita Devi) and brother (Ankit Kumar) were standing at a little distance from me, near the Durga temple. As the rush ensued, I was worried about them and tried to get near them. But I could not. So, I, too, started to make my way towards the pontoon bridge.

After crossing the bridge, there is a narrow lane that people have to cross to reach Ashok Rajpath. The lane was overcrowded because of the rush of devotees.

More and more people tried to enter the lane. They pushed and shoved, and some of them lost their balance and fell. The lane was so narrow that many people struggled to breathe. Some of them fainted because of claustrophobia.

I saw children being crushed under the feet of people hurrying to get away. Adults, too, were crushed below hundreds of scared devotees.

Those who could save themselves managed to escape. The unfortunate perished in the narrow, claustrophobic lane.I was terribly worried about my mother and brother. But I somehow managed to find them. We were able to get out of the crowd and returned to our home (in the Ashok Rajpath area), through a circuitous route.

This Chhath has been terrible for me. I never expected that I would experience such a nightmarish incident. I am still shocked about what happened and the things I saw.