At least four students were killed and 61 others injured in a stampede in an auditorium at the main campus of the Cochin University of Science and Technology (Cusat), where a technology festival was concluding on Saturday. Two of the injured students are being treated at the intensive care unit of the Government Medical College in Ernakulam.
The incident took place around 7:30 p.m., just before the start of a concert by singer Nikhita Gandhi. The auditorium was already filled with more than 1,000 students. Hundreds of students waiting outside the auditorium rushed out when a sudden downpour fell and fell on those standing on the steps leading to the auditorium below.
Although authorities at the Government Medical College Hospital in Ernakulam confirmed the deaths of four students, more details were not immediately available. Forty-six injured students were admitted to the MCH and 15 to the nearby Kinder Hospital.
Eyewitnesses said the hall was packed before the start of the musical performance. Those who rushed did not realize they were passing students, one person said.
38 admitted to hospital; two in serious condition
Thirty-eight people have been admitted to various hospitals for treatment, two of whom are said to be in serious condition.
Up to 70 people were taken to hospitals near the university, including the Government Medical College in Kalamassery. Three of them are admitted to intensive care, 31 are on duty and two of them are in a private hospital in serious condition.
The autopsy of the deceased began at 7 a.m. The bodies will be brought to the university campus so the public can pay their respects. Ministers P. Rajeeve and R. Bindu visited the campus on Sunday morning.
Following the tragedy, an emergency Cabinet meeting was chaired by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan in Kozhikode. Industries Minister P. Rajeeve and Higher Education Minister R. Bindu were asked to rush to Kochi. Health Minister Veena George said medical professionals, including doctors, were available at the MCH and Ernakulam General Hospital to provide all medical assistance.
Education Minister R. Bindu said, “A three-member expert committee will be constituted to study the circumstances leading to this tragic incident. The committee will also suggest ways to avoid such tragedies in the future.
Minister P. Rajeeve said, “Instructions have been given to all auditoriums. Educational institutions should take precautions. No one has been held responsible yet. All measures will be adopted to ensure that lives are not lost in tragedies like this.
University authorities said they did not expect such a crowd. Students from other educational institutions were also present on site for the musical performance. The front door was locked to control the rush. But the situation spiraled out of control when those waiting outside burst in amid a sudden downpour. A student who was part of the organizing team said their appeal not to rush into the auditorium went unheeded. “We couldn’t realize that those rushing inside were running into others who were already inside and near the front door,” he said.
VC submits preliminary report
Ms Bindu said the CUSAT vice-chancellor has already submitted a preliminary report on the stampede and a more detailed report is expected on Sunday morning.
The Principal Secretary, Higher Education, has been asked to investigate the incident and submit a report as soon as possible. The university will cover all medical costs for students undergoing treatment.
Ms Bindu said the Department of Higher Education would issue guidelines to avoid similar tragedies in the future. She was speaking to reporters at the Government Medical College in Ernakulam around midnight on Saturday.
Mr Rajeeve said the tragedy at CUSAT was most unfortunate and unexpected.
The condition of the two injured students, who are in the ICU of the Government Medical College in Ernakulam, was not critical according to doctors. Mrs. George had intervened to make all the arrangements at the hospital.
“I spoke with the doctors and management of Aster Medicity and Kinder hospitals. The condition of the two patients in the Aster intensive care unit continues to be critical, although progress has been made. The condition of the two students who must be released from the hospital is not serious. The government has completed all the processing facilities,” he said.
Mr Rajeeve said the Cabinet had met following the tragedy. The police, he said, would conduct a thorough investigation.
“The government is exploring ways to issue mandatory alerts in relation to such crowded events,” he said.