Tuesday, January 18, 2011
Another 44 people were injured in the accident where pilgrims had gathered at the Sabarimala hilltop shrine for the annual holy day of Makara Jyothi, 14 January, and the culmination of 45 days of fasting.
They came to view a sacred fire at around 8.15pm local time. With the festivities over, the crowds made their way back down, but a jeep stalled on the dirt road. As several people tried to jumpstart the engine, they lost control of the vehicle and it rolled down the hill, crashing into people.
Police official Sanjay Kumar said all the injured had been taken to hospital, some in serious condition.
"We have recovered 102 bodies. The rescue work is almost over," he said.
Thomas Isaac, the state finance minister, said police had scoured the forest area near the stampede site and did not expect to find any more bodies.
"So far 56 bodies have been identified. Our priority now is to identify the rest of the bodies and hand them over to the families of the victims."
RS Gavai, governor of the southern state, said he was shocked and saddened by the accident. "I share my profound grief with that of the bereaved families, and pray for the speedy recovery of those injured."
Stampedes with fatal consequences happen at temples in the district and elsewhere in India, when large crowds often of hundreds of thousands gather in enclosed areas with no safety measures or crowd control.
One person died early this month in a crush near the temple, and 53 people were killed there in January 1999 when a hill collapsed.
In 2008, more than 145 people died at a remote Hindu temple at the foothills of the Himalayas.