Mata Vaishno Devi is one of the most revered Hindu temples in northern India, with tens of thousands of people visiting to pray every day.
At least 12 people have been killed and 13 injured in a stampede and stampede at a religious temple in Indian Kashmir.
The incident happened at around 3am while it was still dark on the route to the Vaishno Devi temple, one of India’s most revered Hindu sites.
At least 12 people lost their lives and 13 others were injured, a government official said.
“The toll could be higher because the route to the hilltop temple is crowded with people trying to make traditional New Year’s visits and prayers.”
As reported by al-Jazeera, as many as 20 people were injured. Images aired by the television station also showed several ambulances rushing to the scene.
According to reports, this stampede was triggered by a stampede of people who came to pay their respects at the temple to mark the beginning of the New Year.
“Something happened near one of the gates and I found myself under people’s pressure. I suffocated and fell but somehow managed to stand up,” Mahesh said.
“I saw people moving over the bodies. It was a horrible sight, but I managed to help save some of the injured people,” he said.
“People are falling on each other… It’s hard to know whose legs or arms are entangled with whom,” witness Ravinder told AFP by phone from the scene.
“I helped retrieve eight bodies by the time the ambulance arrived after about half an hour. I feel lucky to be alive but I’m still shaking remembering what I saw.”
Mata Vaishno Devi is one of the most revered Hindu temples in northern India, with tens of thousands of visitors to pray every day.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi offered his condolences in a message on Twitter.
“Deeply saddened by the loss of life due to the stampede,” Modi wrote.
In a statement posted on social media, Indian President Ram Nath Kovind said he was “deeply saddened to learn that the events that claimed the lives of the people in The Eyes of Vaishno Devi”.
“My sincere condolences to the families left behind. I wish a speedy recovery to those injured,” he added.
The Office of the Lieutenant Governor of Jammu and Kashmir said it was conducting a “high-level investigation” into the incident.
Deadly stampedes are fairly common in any Indian religious festival, where large crowds gather in small areas with little security measures or crowd control.
In October 2016, at least 24 people were killed and dozens injured in a stampede at a Hindu religious ceremony on the outskirts of Varanasi, a city in Uttar Pradesh state known for its temples.
In October 2013, a stampede in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh killed more than 110 people, mostly women and children.
Two months of stampede in India in 2008 killed more than 370 Hindus. Others in Kerala in 2011 and in Madhya Pradesh two years later each killed more than 100 people.