At least 12 people were killed and 13 others injured in a stampede at Mata Vaishno Devi shrine in Jammu and Kashmir's Katra early on Saturday. The stampede was triggered by a heavy rush of devotees on the first day of the new year, according to news agency PTI. The yatra (pilgrimage) to the holy shrine has been suspended after the incident.
"12 dead, 13 injured in the stampede at Mata Vaishno Devi Bhawan in Katra. The incident occurred around 2:45 am, and as per initial reports, an argument broke out which resulted in people pushing each other, followed by stampede," Jammu and Kashmir Police chief Dilbagh Singh told news agency ANI.
The stampede occurred outside the sanctum sanctorum of the shrine atop Trikuta hills in Reasi district.
The Jammu and Kashmir Police launched a rescue operation soon after the stampede was reported.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed grief at the incident and announced an ex-gratia for the families of those killed. Jammu and Kashmir Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha's office announced an ex-gratia of ₹10 lakh for the next of kin of those killed in the stampede.
The injured have been admitted to various hospitals, including Mata Vaishno Devi Narayana Superspeciality Hospital, and the condition of many of the injured was stated to be "serious".
The cave shrine is situated at an altitude of 5,200 ft in Reasi district and generally attracts close to a million devotees every year.
The operations of the pilgrimage site are managed by Vaishno Devi Shrine Board, which provides battery car and ropeway services to the pilgrims to reach the top of Trikuta hills for darshan.