Cardinal Oswald Gracias, Archbishop of Mumbai and president of the Bishops’ Conference of India, said the Church in India was planning to observe a special Day of Prayer for the nation and provide medical services for those injured following a stampede during a Hindu religious procession, Crux reports.

“The Church in India is deeply saddened by the tragic loss of lives in Varanasi. Our condolences go to the injured and to all those who have been affected by this tragedy. The Church in India will make all of its hospitals, dispensaries and clinics available along with the necessary medical care for the hundreds of wounded. I send my condolences to the families of the dead, and my comfort to the wounded,” Cardinal Gracias said.

The accident happened Sunday among the thousands of faithful of the guru Jai Gurudev who went to the village of Domri (Varanasi) on the banks of the Ganges river to take part in a two-day camp.

According to ABC Online, at least 24 people have died and dozens more were injured in the stampede as hundreds of Hindu pilgrims tried to cross a bridge to a sacred site in one of the world’s oldest inhabited cities. A false alarm spread through the crowd that a bridge along the procession route was about to collapse.

“One person died of suffocation because of the surging crowd on the narrow bridge. This led to rumors which resulted in the stampede,” police official Daljit Chaudhary stated.

Local police claimed the disaster occurred because the number of devotees exceed their estimates. “The organisers had sought permission for a gathering of just about 5,000 people, but when the crowds started pouring in, they went far beyond 70,000 to 80,000, thereby making it difficult for police on duty,” a local police official said.

Sources:

Cruxnowcom. (2016). Crux. https://cruxnow.com/global-church/2016/10/16/cardinal-vows-prayer-aid-disaster-hindu-procession/

Abcnetau. (2016). ABC News. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-10-15/stampede-in-india-kills-at-least-24-people/7936276

Heraldmalaysiacom. (2016). Herald Malaysia Online. http://www.heraldmalaysia.com/news/cardinal-gracias-catholic-express-closeness-and-solidarity-with-varanasi-victims/32538/2

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