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Police examine Indian temple stampede

Officials say organisers of a food and clothing giveaway in India, that turned into a stampede that killed 63 people, failed to take adequate safety measures.

KUNDA // Organisers of a food and clothing giveaway in India, that turned into a deadly stampede that killed 63 people, failed to take adequate measures to ensure the safety of thousands of poor villagers, officials said today. Most of those killed were women and children who were crushed as people scrambled for the free items yesterday at a Hindu temple in the small town of Kunda, on the northern plains of India's Uttar Pradesh state. Police have opened a criminal negligence case against the temple management, the superintendent of police SM Mishra said. Relatives of the victims complained organisers should have done a better job of controlling the crowds. Ashok Kumar, a local government official, said the temple had not asked permission to hold the event, but Rajnish Puri, a spokesman for the Jagat Kripalu Parishat trust that runs the temple, said he had informed local authorities about the event last Saturday, telling them they expected large numbers of people. "But only two police constables were sent," he said in a statement. The handouts in Kunda are an annual tradition arranged by local religious leader Kripalu Maharaj to mark the anniversary of his wife's death, a common practice in India. The event usually draws a few hundred people, but was announced more broadly this year and attracted several thousand, said a state lawmaker, Raghuraj Pratap Singh, who represents Kunda. All the victims have been identified and the bodies given to relatives to carry to their villages, police official KG Khan said. As bodies were claimed, temple officials at the hospital gave donations of 10,000 rupees (Dh810) to families who lost relatives. * AP