One-member panel set up to probe stampede incident: Naidu

Rajahmundry, July 15: A one-member panel has been constituted to conduct an inquiry into the stampede on the banks of River Godavari here that claimed 27 lives, Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu said.

After inspecting various ghats here late last night, he told reporters that a retired judge will be appointed to conduct a probe and strict action will be taken against those held responsible.

Twenty-seven people, 23 of them women, died in the stampede that broke out at Pushkar ghat on the banks of the Godavari River on day one of 12-day festival Godavari Pushkaram.

Naidu, along with senior district and police officials took stock of the situation last night and also chalked out a plan for today, which is - Aadi Amavasa ? a day considered auspicious for performing rituals, and devotees in large numbers are expected to visit ghats today as well.

"I have inspected the ghats along with officials and enquired if there is trouble. We have made necessary arrangements for smooth movement of pilgrims," Naidu said.

He termed yesterday's incident as "unfortunate" and said the sudden opening of Pushkhar ghat gates might be the key reason that led to the stampede.

"For the last four months we have been taking all necessary measures to prevent any untoward incidents incident, particularly at the time of taking bath and returning from ghats. But it happened and it is unfortunate. Serious action against will be taken against officials, responsible for the incident," he said.

Naidu also appealed to pilgrims not to swarm just one ghat and use other ghats as well.

Restrictions have been relaxed keeping in view of the large number of people and now pilgrims can take bath in some of the VIP ghats, he added.

Necessary arrangements have been put in place and the situation is being monitored from the Control room through CCTVs cameras.

The chief minister also visited the hospitals where injured persons are under going treatment and said better medical facilities will be provided them.

Meanwhile, the government has stepped up security after yesterday's incident, and has brought in a public address system. Pilgrims have been moved from one ghat to another to avoid over-crowding at one ghat, an official said.

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