At least 27 Hindu pilgrims have been killed in a stampede on the banks of a holy river in the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, local officials say.
The pilgrims had gathered to take a dip in the Godavari River at the start of the Maha Pushkaralu festival.
The stampede occurred at 08:00 AM local time in the Rajahmundry district.
Nearly 24 million pilgrims are expected to take part in the 12-day festival. Pilgrims believe that taking a bath in the river will rid them of their sins.
“The incident happened as the first set of worshippers were coming out of the river after taking a dip and then got in the way of others who wanted to be in the water at an auspicious time,” AFP news agency quoted senior police official A Srinivasan Rao as saying.
Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu, who bathed in the river at the festival on Tuesday morning, said in a series of tweets that he was monitoring the situation and urged people not to panic.
Deadly stampedes during religious gatherings are fairly common in India.
In October 2013, 115 people died during a stampede at a Hindu festival in the central state of Madhya Pradesh.
Navratri festival stampede death toll in Madhya Pradesh, India, has risen to 109, local officials have said.
Many were crushed after panic broke out on a bridge near Ratangarh temple. Others drowned when they jumped from the bridge into river water below.
Meanwhile, funeral pyres have been burning throughout the night with many of the victims already cremated.
Hundreds of thousands had gathered for the festival of Navratri (nine nights in Sanskrit).
Officials said the stampede may have been sparked by a rumor that the bridge was about to collapse.
Navratri festival stampede death toll in Madhya Pradesh has risen to 109
“The latest information we have from the ground is that 109 people killed and 133 were injured,” news agency AFP quoted Anand Mishra, an officer in the local police control room in Datia district, as saying on Monday morning.
“We recovered the bodies from the river and from where they were crushed to death,” he added.
The accident happened at about 09:00 on Sunday. The victims were mostly women and children, officials said.
The narrow bridge is about 500 m long and had only recently been rebuilt following another stampede in 2007.
Local official Sanket Bhondve said the immediate priority was to provide relief to the injured.
Hindu festivals in India are notorious for deadly stampedes.
In the past year, dozens have died in three similar tragedies.