The Kerala government on Saturday ordered an investigation into the stampede during Cochin University's annual festival in which four students were killed and over 60 others were injured.
State Higher Education Minister R Bindhu has directed a three-member team, comprising the principal secretary of higher education, and Cochin University's vice-chancellor and registrar, to inquire into the stampede incident, an official release said.
The minister has instructed the officials to conduct a thorough investigation and submit a report, the release added.
Officials said the stampede occurred before renowned singer Nikita Gandhi was to perform at a musical festival in the open-air auditorium of the Cochin University of Science and Technology (CUSAT) near Kochi.
Four students, including two boys and two girls, lost their lives, while over 60 others are undergoing treatment at Kalamassery Medical College Hospital and some other hospitals nearby, according to State Health Minister Veena George. She mentioned that four more students were in critical condition.
The singer later expressed her heartbreak and devastation in a Facebook post. She said that the incident took place before she could even leave for the venue for the performance. In a Facebook post, she wrote, "No words are possibly enough to express this profound grief. My prayers go out to the families of the students."
ADGP M R Ajith Kumar stated that the audience rushed to the auditorium using the stairs when there was a sudden downpour, leading to a stampede and subsequent deaths. "It was an annual festival, and from the brochure, we understood that it was held from November 24 to November 26. The musical event was organised at an auditorium with a capacity of 1,000 to 1,500 people.
"It was partially filled. But when the rains lashed suddenly, the students rushed through the stairs, leading to the tragedy," Kumar told reporters here.
While initial reports suggested that the stampede occurred during the Nikitha Gandhi musical performance, officials later said that the singer had not begun her performance when the tragedy struck. "The entry to the programme was restricted to ticket holders. However, several local residents were also outside the auditorium during the musical show," an eyewitness told the media.
Meanwhile, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan held an emergency meeting at a government guest house in Kozhikode in the wake of the tragedy and condoled the death of students. Vijayan, who chaired the meeting, later announced as canceled all cultural and art events planned in connection with the ongoing Nava Kerala Sadas programme in the northern district on Sunday.
He also deputed ministers P Rajeev and R Bindhu to rush to the campus in Kalamassery to coordinate various measures. In a statement, the CM also directed to ensure treatment to all injured and said that George would coordinate steps in this regard.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi conveyed his condolences to the bereaved families and wished the injured a speedy recovery. "Deeply shocked and saddened by the tragic stampede incident at the CUSAT university in Kochi that has claimed the lives of four students and left many injured, Gandhi, an MP from Wayanad in Kerala, said in a Facebook post.
"My heartfelt condolences to the bereaved families. May they find strength in this difficult time. I wish a speedy recovery to those injured, and I urge the govt of Kerala to provide them with the best medical care, he said.