About 12 people have been crushed to death and 17 other left injured in a New Year’s Eve stampede at a hilltop shrine in India.
The horror incident unfolded at around 2.40am as people gathered to celebrate New Year’s Eve at the famous Mata Vaishno Devi shrine in Katra.
According to local reports, an argument broke out as the huge crowds got out of control, triggering a stampede.
Authorities said at least 12 people were killed in the stampede, while more than a dozen were rushed to hospital – some with “serious” injuries.
Gopal Dutt, block medical officer of Community Health Centre, said the wounded were transported to Naraina Hospital after a rescue operation.
Officials said the bodies of the victims, said to be from Delhi, Haryana, and Punjab, were taken to a hospital in the Katra base camp for identification.
Dilbag Singh, Jammu, and Kashmir Director General of Police, said there appeared to have been a “minor altercation” between a group of young boys before the stampede.
According to India TV, he said: “Police and officials of the civil administration were quick to respond, and the order within the crowd was immediately restored, but by that time, the damage had been done.”
Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he was “extremely saddened” by the horror.
He said: “Extremely saddened by the loss of lives due to a stampede at Mata Vaishno Devi Bhawan. Condolences to the bereaved families. May the injured recover soon.”
Mr. Modi also said the families of the victims and those injured in the stampede would be given compensation from the Prime Minister National Relief Fund.
An investigation is now underway by the shrine board representatives and senior officials.