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.
The recent heat wave has killed more than 1,000 people in India as temperatures nearing 122F (50C) in some areas.
Most deaths have taken place in the southern states of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, where at least 1,118 people have died since last week.
At least 24 people have died from the heat in West Bengal and Orissa.
Temperatures are likely to drop in some parts over the coming days.
Hospitals are on alert to treat heatstroke patients and authorities have advised people to stay indoors.
Heat wave conditions have been prevailing in the two worst-affected southern Indian states since mid-April, but most of the deaths have happened in the past week.
In the worst-hit state of Andhra Pradesh, where temperatures climbed to 47C on May 25, 852 people have died.
“The state government has taken up education programs through television and other media to tell people not to venture into the outside without a cap, to drink water and other measures,” news agency AFP quoted P Tulsi Rani, special commissioner for disaster management in the state, as saying.
“We have also requested NGOs and government organizations to open up drinking water camps so that water will be readily available for all the people in the towns,” P Tulsi Rani added.
In neighboring Telangana state, 266 people have died in the last week as temperatures hit 118F (48C) over the weekend.
Temperatures fell slightly in Telangana on May 26, and are expected to start dropping in Andhra Pradesh by the end of the week.
The weather is likely to cool further when the summer monsoon begins at the end of the month.
The Indian capital, Delhi, is enduring a week of sweltering heat as the maximum temperature in the city hit a two-year high of 114F (45.5C) on May 25.
The meteorological department has issued a warning for Orissa, Jharkhand and Andhra Pradesh states saying that maximum temperatures there would remain above 113F (45C).
Meteorological officials said the heat wave was due to a lack of rain.
There are fears that some of the worst-affected states could be hit by drought before the monsoon rains arrive.
The monsoon is expected to hit the southern state of Kerala towards the end of this month before sweeping across India.
A pipeline carrying gas exploded in the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh killing at least 14 people, a senior minister has said.
Flames could be seen erupting from a pipeline of the Gas Authority of India Limited (GAIL) in East Godavari district early on Friday.
At least 10 people were injured. It is not clear what caused the blast.
Flames could be seen erupting from a pipeline of the Gas Authority of India Limited in East Godavari district (photo TV9)
GAIL is India’s largest state-owned natural gas processing and distribution company.
The company chairman BC Tripathi told the Press Trust of India that the fire occurred in an 18-inch pipeline of the company near a refinery run by the state-owned Oil and Natural Gas Commission in Nagaram village.
“The reasons for the accident are not known yet. We are currently focused on rescue and relief operations,” he said.
Neetu Kumari Prasad, a senior official of the East Godavari district, said the fire, which has also gutted scores of houses, had been brought under control and the death toll could rise.
GAIL operates a 6,840-mile natural gas pipeline network and seven gas processing units across India. The company is also involved in petrochemicals, exploration, city gas distribution and wind and solar power.
India’s lower house of parliament erupted in mayhem after a legislator used pepper spray to disrupt proceedings.
The MP from the governing Congress party, L Rajagopal, was protesting against a plan to create the new state of Telangana in southern India.
Some members had to be taken to hospital. L Rajagopal was suspended along with several other MPs.
The parliament has often witnessed unruly scenes but what happened on Thursday morning is unprecedented.
L Rajagopal smashed a glass and used pepper spray on his colleagues when Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde tried to table the bill to create Telangana, which will be carved out of Andhra Pradesh state.
Some unconfirmed reports said another legislator pulled out a knife. Several other MPs were reportedly involved in clashes with their opponents.
India’s lower house of parliament erupted in mayhem after a legislator used pepper spray to disrupt proceedings
The Press Trust of India (PTI) reported that four ambulances were called in and an unspecified number of members of parliament were taken to hospital.
Indian television showed members of parliament leaving the colonial-era building coughing and spluttering, some wiping their eyes.
“Members tried to use gas in the house… gas the house… I did not see, but I am informed that there was a knife, there was gas, there were other kinds of weapons,” PTI quoted Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath as saying.
“The circumstances and incidents which took place in the house are a big blot on our parliamentary democracy,” he added.
The entire session of the current parliament – which began on February 5 – has been disrupted by those against the creation of Telangana.
Telangana, with a population of 35 million, would comprise 10 of Andhra Pradesh’s 23 districts, including the city of Hyderabad.
Backers of the new state say the area has been neglected by the government.
Those against the idea are unhappy that Hyderabad, home to many major information technology and pharmaceutical companies, would become a shared state capital for 10 years after which it would remain with Telangana while Andhra Pradesh would have to develop a new capital.
Last month, lawmakers of the Congress party, which governs Andhra Pradesh, opposed a proposal to split the state.
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