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Satara: Smoke still billows from stalls

January 26, 2005 14:54 IST

A day after over 300 people were killed in a stampede at a religious fair in Maharashtra's Satara district, smoke from the fire that reportedly caused the incident still billowed out from gutted stalls on Wednesday.

The stampede occurred during the annual Mandra Devi Yatra at the Mandra Devi temple on a hillock in Wai on Tuesday. Angry devotees had set nearly 300 stalls on fire. There were allegations that the devotees were provoked by shopkeepers hurling coconuts at them to shoo them away.

A few idols of the Goddess, left behind by devotees in the wake of the incident and the resultant chaos, still lay on the road leading to the temple. Stairs leading to the temple were still slippery with spilled oil and were covered with mud.

Meanwhile, officials of the state electricity board and fire brigade, along with additional police, were involved in clearing operations.

Firefighters said no bodies were found on Wednesday. A dozen cylinders, some of them leaking, were recovered from smouldering heaps. "Six to seven cylinders exploded yesterday [Tuesday] after the fire started," they said.

Some shopkeepers were moving around trying to gather whatever was left after the fire.

The two hospitals in Wai - the government-run rural hospital and the private Mission Hospital - could not cope with the magnitude of the tragedy.

The rural hospital has 30 beds and the other some 150. Bodies were lying in their corridors for identification.

The number of doctors in the two hospitals was also inadequate. Doctors were summoned from private hospitals to treat the injured.

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