A sudden stampede on July 2 turned a satsang, or prayer meeting, deadly, per CBS News.

The satsang took place in the Utter Pradesh district of India. At least 121 people have been reported dead and at least 35 are injured, CBS News reported.

What caused the stampede?

Witnesses describe a chaotic scene at the satsang. People fell on one another, leading to suffocation or being trampled to death, according to CNN.

While police investigations have not yet determined what exactly caused attendants to panic and start the “crush,” one thing has become clear: There were simply too many people at the event in the first place.

Initial investigations found that more than 250,000 people came to listen to the preaching of Bhole Baba, an Indian preacher who calls himself a “godman,” CNN reported. The police had expected — and deployed sufficient security measures for — only 80,000.

After Bhole Baba completed his sermon and got in his car to depart, worshipers ran toward his vehicle in hopes of touching him, per BBC. People began to trip into one another. Some fell into an open sewer by the venue.

Police are now searching for Bhole Baba, who went missing after the deadly events, and have filed “culpable homicide” charges against some of the event’s organizers, per BBC.

Officials believe Bhole Baba is hiding in a residence in the village of Mainpuri, but they have not yet located him, the article said.

Some attendants and their family and friends have shared devastating clips of the stampede on social media. Others have shared their anger and grief.

“My family has been destroyed. The government should see to it that we get justice,” said Ritesh Kumar, whose wife died in the stampede, according to BBC.

More than 1,000 Muslim pilgrims have died during this year’s Hajj

Why are people dying at religious events?

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The recent stampede is not the first tragedy to occur at a religious event in India, according to CBS News.

  • In 2005, another stampede took place at the Mandhardevi temple in Maharashtra, India, and over 340 people were killed.
  • In 2008, over 250 were crushed by a stampede at the Chamundi Devi temple.
  • Also in 2008, over 160 died from a stampede at the Naina Devi temple in Himachal Pradesh, India.

When an event is not designed to handle the number of worshipers who show up, faithful ceremonies can clearly turn deadly.

This month’s tragedy in Utter Pradesh follows tragedy at the 2024 Hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia. More than 1,000 Muslim pilgrims died this year, as the Deseret News previously reported.

While the deaths at the Hajj were initially attributed to severe heat and disease, officials have since pointed to overcrowding as the chief cause of death, per Vox. There weren’t enough medical resources, housing options or meals to go around, since many unregistered pilgrims snuck onto the annual religious journey.

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