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India temple stampede: Death toll reaches 115 as rescue operation ends

Indian villagers gather as policemen arrive at the scene of the deadly stampede in Madhya Pradesh, Sunday. AP

Rescue operations have ended at the scene of a stampede at a remote Indian temple which has so far killed 115 people, police said Monday.

The crush, which happened on Sunday during the holy festival of Dussehra, is the second of its kind in the past seven years at the Ratangarh temple, in Madhya Pradesh.

Most of the dead were women and children, police deputy inspector general Dilip Arya told Reuters.

"The death toll has increased to 115 and the rescue operation is over," Arya said.

Reports on the number of pilgrims who have attended this year’s festival have ranged from 150,000 to 500,000. It is one of the most important events in the Hindu calendar.

The stampede was triggered when a large crowd feared the bridge they were using to get to the temple was about to collapse after its railings broke, officials said.

Local media, cited by Reuters, reported that police were controlling the crowd with batons, which further increased the panic. Arya said these claims were not true.

Some people were crushed to death by the surge, while others drowned after jumping into the river Sindh below, according to reports.

Following the stampede, relatives searched for injured family members at the nearby state-run hospital where victims had been taken, the Associated Press reported. And volunteers continued to pull bodies from the river Sindh.

NDTV said that some 82 people had been admitted to hospital, but most of these were since discharged.

The most recent stampede to happen at the Ratangarh temple was in 2006 when around 50 people died. Following that incident the wooden bridge leading to the temple was replaced by the concrete bridge where Sunday’s crush happened.

More than 100 people died in another stampede at the Sabarimala shrine in the state of Kerala in 2011, and in 2008 around 250 Hindu pilgrims were killed in a stampede at Jodhpur’s Chamunda Devi temple.

The state has ordered a judicial inquiry into Sunday's stampede, the Associated Press said.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said he felt "deep sorrow and shock over the loss of lives" and asked officials to help the injured and the families of the dead.

"On this day of festivities, our hearts and prayers are with the victims and their families," the prime minister's office said in a statement.

Reuters and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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