109 dead in India temple stampede

NEW DELHI - The death toll from a stampede near a temple in central India rose to 109 after many of the injured succumbed, an official said Monday.

Thousands of Hindu pilgrims were crossing a bridge leading to a temple in Madhya Pradesh state on Sunday when they panicked at rumors the bridge would collapse, triggering a stampede.

The district medical officer R.S. Gupta said that autopsies had been carried out on 109 bodies by late Sunday.

Relatives of the dead crowded the state-run hospital in Datia district to take the bodies after the autopsies. Others searched frantically for their relatives among the injured in the hospital.

Hundreds of thousands of devotees had thronged the remote Ratangarh village temple in Datia to honor the Hindu mother goddess Durga on the last day of the popular 10-day Navaratra festival.

It was not immediately clear how many people were on the two-lane bridge over the Sindh River in the Chambal region of Madhya Pradesh when the stampede started. Local media said some 500,000 people visited the temple and some were headed home when the rumors began.

Police wielding sticks had charged the crowd to contain the rush and people retaliated by throwing stones at the officers, D.K. Arya, deputy inspector general of police, said. One officer was badly injured.

The state has ordered a judicial inquiry.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh expressed "deep sorrow and shock over the loss of lives" and asked local officials to help the injured and the families of the dead.

"On this day of festivities, our hearts and prayers are with the victims and their families," the prime minister's office said in a statement.

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