At least 36 people were killed and more than a dozen injured in a stampede on Sunday evening, as pilgrims began to depart from the Kumbh Mela religious gathering on the banks of the Ganges near Allahabad.
The tragedy struck when thousands of people began to rush towards the platforms at Allahabad railway station, which resulted in the collapse of barriers and footbridges, according to Allahabad Commissioner Devesh Chaturvedi.
Eyewitnesses said medical help could have saved some lives but “there was only one doctor at the station to attend to the injured,” one of them told ucanews.com today.
Eyewitnesses also complained about security personnel and railway police staging baton charges in their efforts to control the crowd, which increased people’s panic.
In New Delhi, Railway Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal dismissed allegations of governmental lapses. He said "adequate arrangements" had been made for travelers.
However, a senior railway official told ucanews.com that the stampede was caused by a crowd much larger than expected converging on the station. He added that a probe has been ordered.
Local reports say the station is still overcrowded as travelers continue to arrive at it in large numbers from the festival site.
The Kumbh Mela, billed as the largest religious gathering on earth, attracts around 100 million pilgrims, Hindu ascetics and religious leaders. It is held every 12 years in Allahabad, at the point where the Ganges and Yamuna rivers meet the mythical river Saraswati.
The ritual immersion is believed to cleanse the pilgrims of their sins and Sunday is considered the most auspicious day for bathing in the 56-day festival, which lasts until March 10.