India stampede: More than 120 killed at religious gathering in Uttar Pradesh

At least 121 people, many of them women and children, have died in a stampede at a religious gathering in northern India, officials have said.

More than 80 others were taken to hospitals after the crush in a village in the Hathras district of Uttar Pradesh, roughly 125 miles southeast of the country's capital New Delhi.

One official told broadcaster India Today that there was "wet mud" at one spot, which may have caused people to slip, and others may have been heading for water in the heat.

The district's administrator Ashish Kumar said the incident happened "due to overcrowding at the time when people were trying to leave the venue".

According to the AP news agency, about 250,000 people turned up for an event that was permitted to accommodate 80,000.

"The function was held in a makeshift tent without ensuring multiple exit routes. Typically, there should be eight to 10 well-marked exits opening into open areas," disaster management expert Sanjay Srivastava said.

It's believed just one small exit was available.

Video recorded by news agency ANI showed bodies placed in the back of trucks and laid out in vehicles.

'People falling on each other'

An unidentified witness told India Today there was a narrow exit at the venue: "As we tried to exit towards a field, suddenly a commotion started, and we didn't know what to do."

Another survivor, Jyoti, told local media the stampede occurred as soon as the event ended.

She said: "There was no way out and people were falling on each other."

The country's defence minister Rajnath Singh described the incident as "extremely painful".

"My deepest condolences to the bereaved families of those who have lost their loved ones in this accident," he wrote in a post on X.

"Along with this, I wish for the speedy recovery of all the injured. Under the supervision of the state government, the local administration is providing all possible help to all the victims."

Sonu Kumar, who lives nearby, helped move bodies after the incident - and criticised the preacher, saying: "He sat in his car and left. And his devotees here fell one upon another and some were in the water.

"The screams were so heart-wrenching. We have never seen anything like this before in our village."

Stampedes relatively common

Deadly stampedes are relatively common during Indian religious festivals, where large crowds gather in small areas with few safety measures.

In 2013, pilgrims visiting a temple for a popular Hindu festival in central Madhya Pradesh state trampled each other amid fears a bridge would collapse.

At least 115 were crushed to death or died in the river.

In 2011, more than 100 people were killed in a crush at a religious festival in the southern state of Kerala.