Monday, 30th October 2017

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‘Crushing sound and the queue broke’ says Loknath temple stampede victim

'People were crying out in fear. The children were screaming loud, looking for their near and dear ones'

By Subhankar Chowdhury in Calcutta
  • Published 24.08.19, 3:38 AM
  • Updated 24.08.19, 3:38 AM
  • 2 mins read
  •  
Poushi Mandal being treated at the hospital on Friday. Picture by Subhankar Chowdhury

Poushi Mandal, 33, was grimacing in pain as she sat on the stretcher outside the old casualty block of the female ward at Calcutta National Medical College and Hospital on Friday afternoon.

Husband Lakhan Mandal was helping her to drink water. Poushi, who was later treated and discharged, recounted to Metro the moments that continue to haunt her.

I was waiting in the queue on the road to the Loknath temple with a pot of water. The shoulders brushed as the followers of Baba Loknath stood in close proximity, chanting his name.

Then there was a crushing sound very close and the queue broke, triggering panic. I could see people running helter-skelter. Before I could react, I fell on my face.

As I tried to stand on my feet, a wave of people landed on my back and limbs. As the road became slushy because of the heavy rain, every time I tried to stand on my feet I found it difficult to hold my balance.

My legs were stuck in the mud, leading to my repeated fall. I guess I could have been stampeded to death, had I not been pulled out by others member of our group.

People were crying out in fear. The children were screaming, looking for their near and dear ones. There were sounds of people falling in the pond just opposite the collapsed wall.

There were rows of makeshift shops that had come up on the edge of the pond.

I could see some of the pilgrims climb on top of the shops to protect themselves. But this did not work as the shops crumbled under their load. They ended up in the pond whose water level had swelled because of the heavy rain.

Even as I am sitting on the stretcher, I can visualise the horrifying memory. The moment I close my eye, the scary sight hits me.

I have been coming to the temple for years. It is considered to be most auspicious to be able to pour water on the deity of Baba on the occasion of Janmashtami.

People from my village Raghabpur in Hasnabad (north 24-Parganas district) have been heading to the place from Monday. I started from my village on Thursday evening. I do not why the crowd became so huge this year. I am sad that I could not complete the ritual. But at the same time I consider myself lucky to be alive. I have Baba’s blessings with me.