NEW DELHI — Thousands of panicked pilgrims stampeded Sunday at a remote mountaintop temple in northern India during celebrations to honor a Hindu goddess, sending dozens of people plummeting to their deaths and trampling scores more. Police said 145 people were killed.
Rumors of a landslide apparently started the panic at the shrine in the foothills of the Himalayas, said C.P. Verma, a senior government official in the Bilaspur district.
Pilgrims already at the Naina Devi Temple began running down the narrow path leading from the peak. There, they collided with devotees winding their way up.
With a concrete wall on one side and a precipice on the other, there was nowhere to escape. At one point a guard rail broke and dozens of people fell to their deaths.
In the ensuing stampede, some people were crushed.
The bodies of devotees — many dressed in brightly colored holiday clothes — carpeted the path, intertwined with flattened iron railings. Many still held the flowers and food they planned to offer at the temple.
Police said they used a cable car at the shrine to ferry some of the bodies down, and helicopters flew in to take the 37 injured to hospitals.
At the Bilaspur hospital in Himachal Pradesh state, rescue workers unloaded bodies wrapped in brown blankets from a truck and laid them in neat rows so they could be identified by relatives.
Tens of thousands of worshipers had flocked to the remote temple in the foothills of the Himalayas to celebrate Shravan Navratras, a nine-day festival that honors the Hindu goddess Shakrti, or divine mother.
The temple is 155 miles northeast of New Delhi.