Condolences Sent for Hindu Temple Tragedy

NEW DELHI, India, JAN. 26, 2005 ( The Catholic Church in India expressed condolences over the death of 258 Hindu pilgrims who died in a human stampede in a temple in Maharashtra state.

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«We are deeply saddened by the unfortunate accident,» said Father Babu Joseph, spokesman of the Indian bishops’ conference. The Church in India «expresses its heartfelt condolences to the bereaved families and prays to God to give strength to them in their hour of grief.»

The episcopate also appealed to the authorities to improve the installations in pilgrimage centers of all religions, which are part of the life of the country.

Reports stated that an electrical short circuit Tuesday caused a fire inside the Mandharadevi temple, dedicated to the goddess Kali. At least 200,000 people had gone to the temple for the annual nine-day festival.

The accident occurred around 1:30 p.m., when the pilgrims entered the temple’s sanctum sanctorum to make their traditional offering of oil to the goddess. Seeing the flames, the rush of people through the temple’s only way out resulted in a massive stampede.

The situation became worse when some people set fire to flower shops in the vicinity in an outbreak of anger and desperation.

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