Kancheepuram: The feared calamity has happened. Four devotees, including two women, were suffocated to death as thousands of people filled up the narrow roads to the Sri Varadaraja Perumal temple for the darshan of Athivaradar on the 18th day of his public worship on Thursday. Many have been hospitalised, a few in serious condition.
Making a detailed statement in the Assembly on the facilities provided at the shrine and elsewhere in the temple town, Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami said the four persons who died despite medical attention at the Kancheepuram government hospital, already had various ailments such as blood pressure and diabetes. One of them had a history of seizures and suffered a bout while attempting to reach the Lord.
The CM’s statement followed the concerns raised by DMK president and Opposition leader MK Stalin, who alleged that the security and other arrangements, such as water and toilets, were grossly inadequate to handle the massive inflow of devotees to the temple.
Responding, CM insisted that elaborate arrangements have been done by the government to handle the inflow of devotees, but their huge numbers were way beyond expectation. He also recalled that the District Collector had made an appeal a few days ago asking the aged persons, physically disabled and pregnant women to avoid the trip to Athivaradar but the devotees kept coming and in fact, the numbers swelled to 1.75 lakh by 4 pm today (Thursday), which happened to be an auspicious day of Thiruvonom star.
The CM also acknowledged the demand made by Stalin while announcing compensation of Rs 1 lakh each to be paid to the bereaved families.
Meanwhile, the local officials said over 30 have been treated at the Kanchi GH as out-patients and sent home after recovery from suffocation and shock.
The six medical camps within the temple also had more than their share of cases to handle.
“We have witnessed the largest inflow of devotees today. All the approach roads have been choked with cars and other vehicles. It took us 2-1/2 hours to cover the 15 km distance between Wallajabad and Kancheepuram, whereas it would take ten minutes at normal times”, said a devotee who had come from Madurai district.