12 killed in stampede at Hindu shrine in Indian held Kashmir

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At least 12 people died and 13 were injured in a stampede at a religious shrine in India in the early hours of Saturday as thousands of pilgrims massed to offer prayers, officials said.

The disaster happened around 3:00am while it was still dark on the route to the Vaishno Devi shrine in occupied Kashmir, one of the country’s most revered Hindu sites.

“People fell over each other… It was difficult to figure out whose leg or arms were tangled with whose,” witness Ravinder, who gave only one name, told AFP by phone from the scene.

“I helped pick up eight bodies by the time ambulances arrived after about half an hour. I feel lucky to be alive but am still shaking with memory of what I saw,” he said.

One official said that there was a rush to offer special prayers for the new year but this was not confirmed by others. Millions of shrines dot Hindu-majority India’s cities, towns and villages as well as remote sites in the Himalayas or in jungles in the Two stampedes in as many months in India in 2008 left more than 370 Hindus dead. Others in Kerala in 2011 and in Madhya Pradesh two years later each killed more than 100. .— AFP

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