3 August 2008

Updated (corrected re confusion between naina Devi and Nainital): The Naina Devi temple stampede in India

Posted by Dave Petley

News reports today report a tragedy in Himachal Pradesh when a stampede at a Hindu temple at Naina Devi led to at least 147 people, most of them women and children being crushed to death. A further 37 people were injured. Initial, unconfirmed, reports suggest that the trigger for the stampede was a rumour of a landslide. Thus, for example, MyNews.in reported that:

“Additional District Magistrate C P Verma said that the tragedy took place when people gathered at one place in the temple following rumours of landslide and rolling down of stones from a nearby hilltop.”

Subsequent reports have clarified this somewhat, suggesting that some stones fell out of a retaining wall, which then triggered the panic.

The Naina Devi temple has a long history of landslides, which may at least in part explain the rumour. The temple was destroyed in a landslide in 1880 that killed 151 people, a fact that may have been in the back of the mind of the pilgrims when the rumour spread, though this is of course just speculation.

Interestingly, in 1981 the same site suffered another stampede that killed 53 pilgrims. This was also triggered by rumours of an impending landslide.