Holy dip turns tragic

10 killed in stampede during Hindu ritual at Langalbandh

Muktadir Rashid . Narayanganj
Survivors of the tragic stampede at the holy bath at Langalband of Sonargaon are being escorted elsewhere. At least 10 people died in the stampede at the annual religious ritual of Hindus on Friday. — Sony Ramany

Survivors of the tragic stampede at the holy bath at Langalband of Sonargaon are being escorted elsewhere. At least 10 people died in the stampede at the annual religious ritual of Hindus on Friday. — Sony Ramany

At least 10 Hindu devotees, including seven women, were killed and many others injured in a stampede triggered by rumours of a bridge collapse when thousands crowded the bank of Old Brammaputra river at Langalbandh in Sonargaon for a holy dip on Friday morning, the police and hospital said.
‘The 10 were declared dead on the spot by the doctors in medical camps set up for the ritual,’ said district civil surgeon Dulal Chandra Choudhury.
Organisers said Hindu devotees, who came from different parts of the country, began taking holy dips in the Brahmaputra River since 5:45am on Friday as part of the festival in the small village at Langalbandh Bazar in Narayanganj.
The bodies of the deceased – aged between 30 and 70 years – were handed over to their families and a few injured took treatment at the medical teams working there.
The deceased were identified as Suchitra Rani Saha, 70, of Patuakhali, Bhanu Moti Nag, 50, and her son Nitai Chandra Nag, 30, of Noakhali, Bhagabati Das, 50, and her daughter Rahi Das, 28, of Dhaka, Ranajit Chandra Nandi, 55, Kakon Bala Saha,50, and Tulshi Debnath,52, of Comilla, Nakul Chnadra Biswas, 55, of Gopalganj, and Malati Das,60, of Manikganj, said New Age correspondent in Narayanganj.
A total of 15 points along the Brahmaputra were designated for the holy dip (Astami Snan) in Langalbandh Bazar where devotees bathe in the waters and seek divine blessings.
The police said that the tragedy struck when rumours spread around 7:30am that one of the two bailey brides on the river had collapsed, triggering the stampede on a narrow road leading to a 50-metre road between the
two bailey bridges. Hundreds of devotees had crowded the area by that time.
Volunteers with the help of the police evacuated the people and took the injured to nearby open spaces where physicians declared 10 of them dead.
‘The frightened devotees began scrambling after hearing the rumours that led to the deadly stampede,’ Narayanganj police superintendent Kh Mahit Uddin told New Age.
Rajan Saha, a survivor who came from Comilla, said he had struggled his way out of the melee but his 50-year-old aunt Kakon Bala Saha died in the stampede.
‘I found people rushing in different directions after hearing that a bridge has collapsed. Later, I found the body of my aunt among the dead,’ he said.
Toyeb Ali, a restaurant cook, said that people from three directions packed in the small bazaar area –many returning after taking the dip while many others heading towards the river bank. Survivors said the police had failed to maintain order.
Ajit Saha, a devotee from Kishoreganj, said he had attended the festival for last 23 years but it was the worst management he had seen.
Sandals and torn clothes lay strewn over a stretch after the stampede as gloom descended on the small village.
President Abdul Hamid, prime minister Sheikh Hasina and Bangladesh Nationalist Party chairperson Khaleda Zia expressed profound shock at the death of 10 Hindu devotees in the stampede.
Khaleda Zia blamed the government for mismanagement which she said had led to the tragedy.
Narayanganj deputy commissioner Anisur Rahman Miah told New Age that they had formed a three-member committee led by Israt Hossain Khan, the deputy director of local government, to see whether there was any negligence when the accident took place.
‘The committee has been asked to submit a report in five working days,’ he added.
Family of each victim was given Tk 25,000 for funeral, the district administration said.
Every year, thousands of Hindu devotees join the Maha Tirtha Langalbandh holy dip in the Bangla month of Chaitra for purification but the local administration said that this year the festival had witnessed an unusual number of devotees gathering for the ritual as it was the weekend.
Local lawmaker AKM Selim Osman admitted that the road leading to the bathing spot should be widened adding that and many spaces in the area had already been grabbed.
Fire service in Mymensingh said they had recovered the body of one Antar Das from Brahmaputra River in Nawmahal area.
Antar, a student of Class VIII at Mukul Niketan High School, was taken to the district hospital after rescuers found him lying unconscious. Doctors declared him dead.

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