Vandiperiyar/Kumily (Kerala): The marathon autopsies of
the 102 Sabarimala pilgrims who lost their lives in a stampede
ended Saturday evening at the Kumily government hospital. Most of
the bodies have been handed over to the relatives, officials said.
Billed as the single biggest such effort in Kerala, the autopsies
by a team of 60 doctors began Saturday morning and ended at 5 p.m.
The stampede occurred Friday night at Pulumedu near Vandiperiyar
town where about a lakh of pilgrims had gathered to watch the
revered Makara Jyothi light on the Sabarimala hills.
Health officials who oversaw the autopsies said 90 bodies have
been identified of which 70 bodies have been handed over to the
relatives. As many as 18 bodies have been sent to Kochi for
According to officials, the 12 unidentified bodies will be sent to
the Kottayam Medical College.
Kerala chief Minister V.S. Achuthanadan, who visited the Kumily
hospital Saturday morning, said the government will seek a
judicial probe into the tragedy.
He also announced a compensation of Rs.500,000 to the families of
each of those killed. Also Rs.50,000 will be granted to the
seriously injured and Rs.25,000 to those with minor injuries.
The state has declared three days of mourning.
The government made elaborate arrangements and deployed 80
ambulances to transport the bodies of the ill-fated pilgrims to
their home towns. Each ambulance was accompanied by a government
Meanwhile the Congress-led opposition slammed the failure of the
government in ensuring a safe pilgrimage.
"The government failed miserably in ensuring security measures
that is a must in a place like Sabarimala, where the number of
pilgrims has been growing every season. They have also failed in
setting up proper infrastructure there," said leader of opposition
Oommen Chandy, who has been camping at Vandiperiyar since Friday
State Congress chief Ramesh Chennithala asked the government to
increase the compensation amount from half a million to Rs.1
Earlier in the day, grieving relatives thronged mortuaries to
identify their kin who lost their lives in the tragedy.
A government report Saturday said the Friday night stampede in the
Pulumedu forest was caused after a tiff between autorickshaw and
taxi drivers and pilgrims turned violent.
Nearly 60 people are said to be injured.
The stampede occurred around 8 p.m. Friday when the pilgrims were
returning after watching the celestial Makara Jyothi light, the
most important event of the two-month pilgrimage, from a hillock
some 30 km from the Sabarimala temple in Pathanamthitta district,
dedicated to Lord Ayyappa.
The Pulumedu forested area is about 10 km from the Vandiperiyar
town. Pilgrims gather at its hillock to watch the Makara Jyothi of
A report of the state forest department said that a huge crowd had
gathered at the Pulumedu hillock, and after seeing the Makara
Jyothi light, some of the devotees got into an autorickshaw to go
back to Vandiperiyar as the driver was charging less than the
jeeps that were being run as taxis.
This sparked off a quarrel between the auto and jeep drivers and
some devotees too joined in. The argument turned ugly when some
angry pilgrims smashed the windscreens of the jeeps, leading to
panic among the crowd and a stampede, the report said.
A witness said the road leading to the hillock was narrow and the
crowds returning were huge and unmanageable. The policemen were
too few to handle the commotion.
The bodies were first brought to the Vandiperiyar Government
Hospital and from there they were moved to the Government Hospital
in Kumily in Idukki district, nearly 15 km from the accident site.
The dead include one pilgrim from Sri Lanka, 29 from Tamil Nadu,
25 from Karnataka, 16 from Andhra Pradesh and three from Kerala,
hospital authorities said.
Seven people have been admitted at Theni Medical College in Tamil
Nadu, which is near the Kerala border.
Earlier, state Finance Minister Thomas Isaac, who visited the
Kumily hospital, said a jeep had lost control and rammed into some
pilgrims when over a lakh people were returning to the base of the
hillock, leading to the chaos.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called Achuthanandan Saturday
morning to convey his grief. He also sanctioned a relief of Rs.1
lakh to the kin of each of those killed and Rs.50,000 for the
injured from the Prime Minister's Relief Fund, PMO sources in New
Calling it a national tragedy, Defence Minister A.K. Antony said
he had directed the defence forces to see that all help is
State Health Minister P.K. Sreemathi also visited the Kumily
The Sabarimala temple is in Kerala's Pathanamthitta district,
situated in the Western Ghat ranges at an altitude of 914 metres
above sea level, four km uphill from the Pampa river.
Pampa, the base camp to the Sabarimala temple, has been
overflowing with pilgrims over the past few days.
The sighting of the Makara Jyothi flame on the horizon marks the
finale of the two-month-long pilgrim season at the mountain