At least 12 people killed in New Year's stampede at popular shrine

At least 12 people are dead after a horrific stampede unfolded at a popular Hindu shrine in India-controlled Kashmir on New Year's Day.

Initial reports suggested a fight between a group of devotees led to the crush early on Saturday (local time) at the Mata Vaishno Devi shrine, where tens of thousands of Hindus gathered to pay respects in the hilly town of Katra near southern Jammu city.

Deputy Commissioner of Reasi Charandeep Singh said 16 others were injured, according to CNN.

A video still taken on January 1, 2022 shows a packed crowd of devotees at the Vata Maishno Devi shrine in Kashmir.
Thousands of people had gathered at the Vata Maishno Devi shrine in Kashmir to pay their respects on New Year's Day. Source: NNIS/AFP via Getty Images

One witness named Mahesh, who gave only one name, said: "Something happened near one of the gates and I found myself under a crush of people. I suffocated and fell but somehow managed to stand up.

"I saw people moving over the bodies. It was a horrifying sight, but I managed to help in rescuing some injured people."

Police chief Dilbag Singh said authorities were quick to respond and the order within the crowd was immediately restored, according to the Press Trust of India news agency.

The pilgrimage resumed after nearly four hours, officials said. An investigation is underway.

Another devotee named Priyansh said he and 10 friends from New Delhi arrived on Friday night to visit the shrine. He said two of his friends died in the crush.

Indian Prime Minster Narendra Modi expressed his condolences in a message on Twitter.

“Extremely saddened by the loss of lives due to a stampede,” Modi wrote.

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