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Stampede at India's Kumbh Mela festival turns fatal

Dozens have been killed in a stampede on their way home from India's popular Kumbh Mela festival. Railings on a bridge reportedly gave way under the weight of the crowds.

Officials on Monday put the number of fatalities at 36, with several others critically injured in the incident on Sunday.

The stampede took place on a footbridge between two platforms at an overcrowded railway station in the city of Allahabad, the NDTV news agency said.

In a statement, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said he was "deeply shocked to learn of the unfortunate incident." Railways Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal, meanwhile, said he would travel to Allahabad to investigate.

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Deadly stampede at Indian religious festival

Relatives of victims blamed police for causing panic, while others said emergency services took too long to arrive and administer aid.

"There was complete chaos. There was no doctor or ambulance for at least two hours after the accident," an eyewitness told NDTV.

Pilgrims at the Mela believe that taking a dip at the confluence of the rivers Ganges, Yamuna and mythical Saraswati, can cleanse the soul. Sunday was the climax of the event with more than 30 million people, a record number, submerging themselves.

The Kumbh Mela began last month and ends in March. It takes place every 12 years in Allahabad, with smaller events taking place every three years at other locations.

rc/ccp (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)

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