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Junagadh stampede: 7 dead, probe ordered

Seven people were killed and 40 others injured in a stampede that broke out at Bhavnath temple's annual Mahashivratri fair in the foothills of Mount Girnar in Gujarat's Junagadh district on Sunday night.

According to senior police officials here today, the breakdown of two state transport buses led to the incident. The Gujarat government, meanwhile, has ordered a high-level inquiry into the incident, which left over 40 injured.

The mishap occurred on the narrow Panjanka bridge that connects Junagadh city to Bhavnath temple when two state transport buses coming from opposite directions broke down while crossing the bridge.

"This blocked the entire traffic as well as movement of people which created panic among them causing the stampede," Junagadh SP Dipankar Trivedi said.

The state government has constituted a high-level committee, headed by Additional Chief Secretary Varun Maria, to probe the incident.

Nearly nine lakh pilgrims had converged at Bhavnath temple last evening at the time of the tragedy, district officials said. In the wake of the stampede and in a bid to prevent recurrence of such incidents, the district administration has put in place many measures.

"To avoid any such incident, we have banned all vehicular traffic in the area today and people are allowed to go on foot only," Trivedi said, adding the directions would be in place till the fair is over.

Meanwhile, Junagadh resident Suresh Banjaria, who had gone to Bhavnath temple yesterday, said, "People of the city have been telling the municipal corporation to build a wider bridge in place of Panjanaka bridge but it has not been done.

The state government and Junagadh Municipal Corporation each have announced a compensation of Rs one lakh to the kin of the deceased and Rs 25,000 to the injured.

Meanwhile, three companies of the State Reserve Police (SRP) have been summoned from Gondal to ensure that the fair passes off peacefully. In the wake of the stampede, Akhil Bhartiya Sadhu Samaj, the main organiser of the fair, has decided to call off their famous procession saying only a symbolic procession would be taken out. The fair is organised every year to mark Mahashivratri and this time nearly 10 lakh people are expected to attend the congregation.

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