Four persons choked to death as nearly two lakh devotees thronged the Kanchi Varadaraja Perumal temple on Thursday for a darshan of Athi Varadhar on Thursday.
Though the festival, when the deity is taken out of the sanctum for public view, had been on for the past 18 days, the crowd was very heavy on Thursday because it was an auspicious Thiruvonam day.
Two of the dead were women. Besides these, 30 persons were treated as outpatients at the district hospital. Responding to Opposition leader M K Stalin in the Tamil Nadu Assembly on Thursday, Chief Minister Edappadi K Palanisami said the tragedy happened despite the elaborate arrangement made for crowd management as the number of devotee thronging the temple had gone beyond the expectations of the administration. At one point, the crowd was nearly 1.75 lakh, he said.
He also said the four died at Government hospital despite medical attention as they had a history of high blood pressure and diabetes. One was also prone to fits. The district collector a few days ago cautioned the aged to stay away because of the heavy rush.
The Chief Minister announced a solatium of Rs 1 lakh to the next kin of the dead. A devotee who had come from Madurai, said it took him two and half hours to reach the temple from nearby Walajabad town as approach roads were choked with cars and other vehicles and the lanes leading to the temple were narrow.