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36 Die in Stampede at India's Ganges Festival

Indian officials say a stampede Sunday during a religious holiday has killed at least 36 people. Most of the victims are women.

Officials say the stampede broke out when pilgrims were heading home from the festival that attracted millions of people in the northern city of Allahabad.

It was not immediately clear what caused the stampede. Conflicting reports about the chain of events leading up to the crush have emerged.

Rail Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal has denied reports that hand railings on a foot bridge gave way under the weight of the crowd.

Officials say dozens of people were injured in the incident.

More than 30 million people gathered Sunday to plunge into the waters at the confluence of India's Ganges and Yamuna rivers. It is the most auspicious day of the Hindu festival, Kumbh Mela, which is held every 12 years.



Devotees believe that entering the mighty rivers cleanses them of sin and frees them of the cycle of birth and rebirth. The festival is believed to date back 2,000 years.

About 100 million pilgrims were expected to take a dip in the rivers during the 55-day festival that began last month.

Thousands of police were deployed to ensure security in the area Sunday.

Some eyewitnesses accused police of using batons on the crowds prior to the stampede.

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