At least 12 people were killed and 20 others injured in a stampede at the famous Mata Vaishno Devi shrine in Jammu and Kashmir triggered by a heavy rush of devotees, officials said on Saturday.
The stampede occurred in the early hours of Saturday near gate number three outside the sanctum sanctorum of the shrine atop Trikuta hills, about 50 km from Jammu.
The stampede was triggered by a heavy rush of devotees who have come to pay their obeisance to mark the beginning of the New Year, the officials said.
Devotees usually trek to the hilltop shrine from the Katra base camp, a distance of nearly 13 km, while some reach there by helicopter.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed his condolences to the bereaved families and said he had spoken to Jammu and Kashmir Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha and Union ministers Jitendra Singh and Nityanand Rai to take stock of the situation.
"Extremely saddened by the loss of lives due to a stampede at Mata Vaishno Devi Bhawan. Condolences to the bereaved families. May the injured recover soon. Spoke to JK LG Shri @manojsinha Ji, Ministers Shri @DrJitendraSingh Ji, @nityanandraibjp Ji and took stock of the situation," Modi tweeted.
In a tweet, the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) said, "An ex-gratia of Rs 2 lakh each from PMNRF would be given to the next of kin of those who lost their lives due to the stampede at Mata Vaishno Devi Bhawan. The injured would be given Rs 50,000: PM @narendramodi."
LG Sinha has ordered a probe into the stampede.
In a series of tweets, the office of the Jammu and Kashmir Lieutenant Governor said, "Deeply pained at the loss of lives due to stampede at Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine. My condolences to the families of the deceased & prayers with the injured."
"Spoke to Hon'ble Home Minister Shri Amit Shah Ji. Briefed him about the incident. A high-level inquiry has been ordered into today's stampede. The Inquiry Committee will be headed by Principal Secretary (Home) with ADGP, Jammu and Divisional Commissioner, Jammu as members," he said.
"Spoke to Hon'ble Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi Ji. Briefed him about the incident. Hon'ble Prime Minister has assured all the help. Ex-gratia of Rs.10 lakh each would be given to the next of kin of those who lost their lives due to stampede and Rs.2 lakh to injured. Shrine board to bear the cost of treatment of injured," he added.
Senior officials and shrine board representatives are on the spot.
Officials said 12 people died in the stampede and their bodies have been removed to a hospital in the Katra base camp for identification and other legal formalities.
Twenty more people were injured and a majority of them are undergoing treatment at Mata Vaishno Devi Narayana Superspeciality Hospital, the officials said, adding that the condition of four of the injured was stated to be "critical".
The officials said the shrine was open and devotees were paying obeisance till last reports came in.