A 45-year-old man died while at least 20 others, mostly women and children, were seriously injured after an outbreak of stampede on the Gopinathpur-Badamba T-bridge over River Mahanadi in Athagarh of the Cuttack district on Saturday during the Makar Sankranti Mela, officials said.
The stampede ensued as there was a sudden surge of devotees to Singhanath shrine that was thrown open for public after two years of Covid-induced interruption.
“Of the 20 injured, six were shifted to SCB Medical College and Hospital in Cuttack as their health condition worsened. The mishap occurred as there was a sudden inflow of devotees into the shrine. There was a congregation of around 2 lakh devotees. Such a massive crowd was not being expected by us”, said Hemant Swain, Sub Collector, Athagarh.
The T-bridge, covering 3.4 kilometre, is incidentally the longest river bridge in Odisha. Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on December 20, 2021 had inaugurated the bridge built in the shape of English alphabet ‘T’ at a cost of Rs 111 crore.
Ironically, there was deployment of meager three platoons of police comprising less than 100 policemen for controlling two lakh gatherings. The officials besides the policemen are understood to have made Bhubaneswar, the venue of the Men’s World Cup Hockey, their temporary sojourn. The Sub Collector flanked by three platoons of police was left to maintain order at the shrine. Expectedly, things went awry, chaos reigned supreme,
Locals squarely blamed the civil and police administration for the stampede and termed it an entirely man-made. It was sheer lack of foresight on part of authorities as they miserably failed to assess the situation and devotees surge at the place of pilgrimage.