Eighteen people were killed when a stampede broke out early Saturday in Mumbai as tens of thousands crowded to pay their respects at a funeral for Shiite spiritual leader Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin, local news agencies reported.
At least 40 people were also injured in the incident, which occurred shortly after 1:00am local time as mourners gathered at Burhanuddin's home.
Buhranuddin died of a heart attack on Friday at the age of 102. A leader of the Dawoodi Bohra community, a sect of Shiite Islam, he has been succeeded by his 70-year-old son. During his lifetime he was honoured with the highest civilian titles by foreign governments, including the Star of Jordan and Egypt's Order of the Nile.
Narendra Modi, leader of the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, called the incident "unfortunate" on his Twitter account. Modi has been vilified for the deadly anti-Muslim riots in Gujarat state in 2002.
"Stampede near Syedna Sahib's residence is very unfortunate. Condolences to families of those who lost their lives & prayers with the injured," Modi tweeted.
It was unclear what triggered the stampede, which are a frequent occurrence in India and are usually blamed on poor crowd control.
The disaster comes just months after some 115 devotees were crushed to death or drowned on a bridge near a Hindu temple in October when crowds panicked on rumours that the bridge was going to collapse in the central state of Madhya Pradesh.
India has a long history of seeing deadly stampedes at religious festivals, with at least 36 people trampled to death in February 2013 when a railing gave way at a train station in Allahabad as pilgrims headed home from the Kumbh Mela festival on the banks of the river Ganges.
Ten people were crushed to death and dozens were injured in a November 2011 stampede at a Hindu religious ceremony near the Ganges.
Some 102 Hindu devotees were killed in another stampede in January 2011 in the state of Kerala, while 224 pilgrims died in September 2008 as thousands of worshippers rushed to reach a 15th century hill-top temple in Jodhpur.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP)
Date created : 2014-01-18