Idukki (Kerala), Jan 14 (IBNS): The death toll in Kerala’s Sabarimala pilgrim tragedy of Friday night reached 102 as the overnight rescue operation assisted by defence personnel in the forested and inaccessible area nearly ended, a senior state minister said on Saturday.
“The total number of dead is 102 while 56 bodies could be identified,” said Kerala Finance Minister Thomas Isaac.
He said an auto rickshaw accident led to the stampede in Idukki district that killed over 100 and wounded many.
Defence Minister A K Antony said army and navy were pressed into rescue operation.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has announced an immediate compensation of Rs 1 lakh for the next of kin of the dead.
The Prime Minister and President Pratibha Patil have expressed their condolences over the tragedy.
The people killed, devotees of Lord Ayyappa, were returning after the Makaravilakku festival in Sabarimala when they throng the shrine to watch the Makarjyoti star, a celestial spectacle that brings good luck.
According to initial reports, a jeep went out of control and ploughed into the pilgrims on foot spurring the stampede, but on Saturday the state finance minister said the accident involved an auto rickshaw.
Kerala Education Minister M A Baby told reporters earlier that the tragedy occurred in an inaccessible hilly region, hampering the rescue operation.
The deceased devotees, mostly from Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, were returning home to celebrate Pongal after a visit to the famous Lord Ayyappa temple.
According to initial estimates, about 1.5 lakh people were returning by the route.
Makaravilakku festival sees thousands of devotees flow in to Sabarimala to witness the rituals and the Thiruvabharana procession.
The accident spot is about 50 km from Sabarimala and nearly 300 km north of Kerala capital Thiruvanthapuram.
The Kerala government will announce more compensations, reports said.
The Helpline numbers given by the Kumuli police station in Kerala are 0486922049 and 04869253456.