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Stampede kills 27 at Pushkaralu Festival in Andhra Pradesh

At least 27 people were killed and dozens injured because of a stampede during the religious festival of Pushkaralu in Andhra Pradesh.

The stampede occurred at a bathing ghat in Rajahmundry in the East Godavari district during the religious festival "Maha Pushkaralu" that celebrates rivers and attracts huge crowds from both Telangana and Andhra Pradesh.

A disaster management official informed that a large number of pilgrims had hurried towards one of the gates at the Kotagummam Pushkar ghat on the banks of the Godavari River to take a bath, when some women tripped and fell, triggering the stampede.

Andhra Pradesh Home Minister Nimmakayala Chinarajappa said the dead bodies of four people had been brought to the local hospital. Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu has directed more policemen be positioned to control crowds.

Mr Naidu took bath this morning, like other pilgrims, in the Godavari River which is considered sacred.

The event, which started today, is held once in every 144 years. However, a smaller version or Pushkaralu occurs once every 12 years. More than 10 million people are likely to attend the 12-day event.

The mass pilgrimage is comparable to the Kumbh Mela, which began in Nashik today. The event occurs in every third year and is alternated between four holy sites.

Organizers of this year's event at Nashik are taking extra care to avoid a repeat of a fatal stampede at the same place 12 years ago.