Bhopal (India) (AFP) - A stampede at a Hindu temple in central India killed at least 10 people and injured scores early Monday, the latest in a string of deadly accidents at mass religious events, officials said.
Hundreds of pilgrims gathered at a holy hill in Madhya Pradesh state for a ritual that involves rolling on the ground along the "path of worship" around the site, a state official said.
Rope barriers designed to contain the pilgrims appeared to have given way, sparking panic during the ritual at Chitrakoot in the state's east, the official said.
"Ten people were killed and over 60 are suspected to be injured in the stampede," M.L. Meena, a senior state government official, told AFP.
"During the parikrama (rolling), there was a situation of suffocation and then people started falling over each other and that's what triggered the whole thing," police Additional Superintendent Amit Saxena told the NDTV news network.
Television footage showed bodies of the victims placed side by side, with clothes, shoes and belongings scattered around. Tearful relatives were seen helping police carry the injued to waiting ambulances.
"The place is still very chaotic and crowded, but police and ambulances have reached the spot," local police control room official Vinay Kumar Singh told AFP by phone.
The devotees gathered on Kamadgiri hill, 520 kilometres (324 miles) from the state capital Bhopal, for Somvati Amavasya, a new moon event to honour Lord Shiva.
Pilgrims roll in a clockwise circle along the "path of worship" -- a five-kilometre (three-mile) circular stretch around the hill, which has a chain of temples along its base.
"The accident occurred when the rope barriers set up to contain thousands of Hindu pilgrims during circumambulation of Kamadgiri hill gave way...resulting in a stampede," said police Inspector General Pawan Srivastava.
Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan announced 200,000 rupees ($3,300) for the families of those killed.
Home Minister Rajnath Singh offered his condolences to those involved.
"Deeply saddened to know of ten pilgrims death in a stampede at a temple in Chitrakoot area of Madhya Pradesh," Singh said on Twitter.
India has a long history of deadly stampedes at religious festivals, where large numbers of people crowd into congested areas. Safety regulations are few, while inadequate policing can sometimes cause panic.
Some 115 devotees were crushed to death or drowned on a bridge near another Hindu temple in Madhya Pradesh last October.
Hordes of pilgrims panicked after rumours that the bridge was going to collapse at the temple in the Datia district, some 700 kilometres west of Monday's accident site.
In 2006 another stampede outside that same temple in Datia killed 50 people as they crossed a river, prompting authorities to build the bridge.
Some 102 Hindu devotees were killed in a stampede in January 2011 in the southern state of Kerala, while 224 pilgrims died in September 2008 as thousands of worshippers rushed to reach a 15th-century hilltop temple at Jodhpur in Rajasthan state.