Vandiperiyar (Ker), Jan 15 (Agencies): In the worst pilgrim tragedy that struck south India,102 Lord Ayyappa devotees were killed and 50 injured, seven of them seriously, in the stampede that occurred a Pullumedu about seven km from the Sabarimala temple.

Kerala Chief Minister V S Achuthanandan annouced a judicial inquiry into the mishap and declared a solatium of Rs 5 lakh each for the family of these killed.

The marathon autopsies of the 102 Sabarimala pilgrims who lost their lives in a stampede ended on Saturday evening at the Kumily government hospital. Most of the bodies have been handed over to the relatives, officials said.

Billed as the single biggest such effort in Kerala, the autopsies by a team of 60 doctors began Saturday morning and ended at 5 p.m.

 

The deceased inluded one Sri Lankan woman while majority of them were from Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh as the grassland forest trekking path known as `Pullumedu' in the Periyar tiger reserve, is trodden by devotees from these states.

The Sri Lankan pilgrim who died was identified as sha Kantha, a member of 18-member pilgrim team from the island nation.

The preliminary report by Idukki District administration stampede was caused by commotion created by minor mishap involving a jeep and an autorikshaw which which fell off to sides after grazing each other while plying the narrow trekking route.

This created a panic among the people trekking route flooded with pilgrims and smaller vehicles paving the way for the stampede.

People them started falling and getting tossed around being trampled upon as the spot was envoloped by darkness and mist with poor lighting on the way.

Police said they did not receive any complaints of any missing cases the toll unlikely to go up further.

All the bodies had been shifted to hospital at Kumali for post-mortem and they had begun to be transported to respective places.

Some of the seriously injured had been admitted to Kottayam medical college hospital.

The tragedy occurred when a jeep carrying pilgrims ran into a crowd and fell to the ground, killing some instantly and paving the way for the stampede, rescuers said.

The Forest Department sources, however, said the stampede was the result of the jeep hitting turning an autorickshaw.

So far, the identities of 77 victims had been established, of whom 29 were from Tamil Nadu, 25 from Karnataka, 17 from Andhra Pradesh and 5 from Kerala itself.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called up Achuthanandan and conveyed his deep sorrow at the gruesome tragedy.

Gadkari expresses shock over tragedy

BJP President Nitin Gadkari on Saturday expressed deep shock and dismay over the Sabarimala temple accident and appealed to the Prime Minister to convene a meeting of Chief Ministers of southern states to devise an intitutional mechanism for the safety of pilgrims.

"Nitin Gadkari has expressed his deep shock and dismay at the loss of lives in an unfortunate accident at the holy temple shrine of Sabarimala in Kerala and in the resultant stampede. He has conveyed his condolences to the bereaved families which have lost their near and dear ones in the tragedy," BJP spokesperson Rajiv Pratap Rudy said.