Rainstorm kills 7, injures 65 during Hindu pilgrimage

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NEW DELHI (AP) – A heavy rainstorm Thursday collapsed several tents, sheds and gates at a sprawling Hindu pilgrimage site with hundreds of thousands of devotees in central India, killing at least seven people and injuring 65 others, police said.

Police officer M.S. Verma said the storm pounded the area for about 45 minutes. Those hurt were hospitalized, but none of them faced life threatening injuries.

The dead included a woman who was killed by lightning, Verma said.

Rescuers cleared the debris, but their task was made difficult by the slush in the area, Verma said.

Devotees live in the tents and sheds during the monthlong pilgrimage. Nearly 2 million people are participating in the “Kumbh Mela,” during which Hindus bathe in a sacred river in the town of Ujjain in Madhya Pradesh state. The festival is held every 12 years in Ujjain, which Hindus consider to be one of the most sacred places in the country.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted he was anguished over the loss of lives.

A major attraction of the festival is ‘Shahi Snan’ (royal bath) which takes place on predetermined dates. Hindus believe that sins accumulated in past and current lives require them to continue the cycle of death and rebirth until they are cleansed. Bathing in the river is believed to rid the devotees of their sins.

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