India weathers weekend storm, but questions remain on pilgrims’ stampede

October 14, 2013

Indian officials halt search for stampede victims after weekend of disaster, Iranian leader says nuclear talks in Geneva could be productive, hopefully, and migrants are rounded up in Moscow after a violent protest targeted them this weekend. Today is Monday, October 14, and this is the World Wrap, brought to you by @dwbronner.

A woman cries next to the body of a victim killed in a stampede near Ratangarh temple in Datia district in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, October 13, 2013.  REUTERS/Stringer

Stampede, cyclone plague India. Indian officials counted at least 115 pilgrims dead in a stampede that broke out among 150,000 pilgrims gathered at India’s Ratangarh temple in the central state of Madhya Pradesh on Sunday before announcing the end of their search:

Devotees thronging towards the temple across a long, concrete bridge panicked when some railings broke, triggering the stampede, Dilip Arya, a deputy inspector general of police, told Reuters. Many victims were crushed by the crowd while others drowned when they fell or jumped into the fast-flowing Sindh river, swollen by heavy rain. “The death toll has increased to 115 and the rescue operation is over,” Arya said. Most of the dead were women and children. Many pilgrims were injured and in hospital, Arya said. Rescuers had combed the river in the hunt for victims.

Sunday’s incident marks the second deadly stampede at the holy site in seven years. In February, 36 Hindu pilgrims were killed in a charge at the world’s largest religious festival. Some victims blamed police for fuelling the panic by using sticks in an effort to control the crowd. Indian officials were praised for their handling of another disaster that hit India over the weekend:

Cyclone Phailin, India’s fiercest storm in 14 years, smashed into the coastline of Andhra Pradesh and Odisha states over the weekend, flooded swathes of farmland and ripped part tens of thousands of mud-and-thatch homes – but surprisingly, only 15 people have been reported dead. Early warnings which started five days before the storm’s arrival, the pre-positioning of food rations and packaged drinking water in shelters, and the orderly – and sometimes forceful – evacuation of close to one million people saved many lives, said aid workers.

A 1999 cyclone which left more than one million homeless served as a wake-up call for authorities. Reuters reported that roughly 76 percent of India’s coastline is vulnerable to cyclones and tsunamis, 59 percent of the country to earthquakes, and 68 percent to droughts. Authorities still fall short in emergency preparedness, however, as demonstrated by the catastrophe caused by unprecedented rainfall in Uttarakhand in June, which has left 6,000 missing and presumed dead.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (L) and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (R) are seated during a meeting of the Foreign Ministers representing the permanent five member countries of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly at the UN Headquarters in New York, September 26, 2013. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Cautious optimism on nuclear talks. Iranian Foreign Minister and chief negotiator Mohammad Javad Zarif said he is hopeful that global negotiations over Iran’s disputed nuclear program – slated to begin in Geneva on Tuesday – will lead to a means of solving the standoff, adding that the process will be complicated:

“Tomorrow is the start of a difficult and relatively time-consuming way forward. I am hopeful that by Wednesday we can reach agreement on a road map to find a path towards resolution,” Zarif said in a message posted on his Facebook account late on Sunday. “But even with the goodwill of the other side, to reach agreement on details and start implementation will likely require another meeting at ministerial level.”… Zarif’s deputy on Sunday rebuffed the West’s demand that Iran send sensitive nuclear material abroad but signaled flexibility on other aspects of its atomic activities, including the degree of uranium enrichment, that worry global powers.

The nuclear conference is the first since Rouhani’s election in June, and onlookers hope that the president’s apparent openness to dialogue over the program will make these talks more fruitful than previous efforts. Western leaders contend that Iran’s uranium enrichment program is designed to develop nuclear arms capability for the nation, an outcome Western leaders would find unacceptable. Iranian leaders say their program is focused solely on producing energy and medical advances.

Russian police detain migrant workers during a raid at a vegetable warehouse complex in the Biryulyovo district of Moscow, October 14, 2013. REUTERS/Ivan Stolpnikov

Moscow migrants detained. Russian police rounded up roughly 1,200 migrants a day after violent protests erupted over the death of a Russian man who was allegedly killed by a migrant from the largely Muslim Caucasus region:

The detainees were taken to police stations and police will seek to determine whether they were involved in any crimes, he said. Televised footage showed detainees standing against walls or lined up in front of camouflage-clad police. By rounding up migrants, authorities seemed to be trying to appease residents who had rallied in the Biryulyovo district to demand police find the killer of Yegor Shcherbakov, 25, and take more action to prevent crimes by migrants… On Sunday, a mob in the southern neighborhood smashed shop and vending stalls, fought with police and stormed the vegetable market in the biggest outbreak of anti-migrant violence in Moscow in three years.

Police arrested at least 380 people involved in the riots in an attempt to contain violence. The outbreak highlights tension between Moscow residents and migrants from North Caucasus and the ex-soviet states of the Caucasus and Central Asia, who have played a key role in Russia’s economic transformation since Russian President Vladimir Putin took office in 2000.

Nota Bene: Three Americans have been awarded the 2013 Nobel Prize in economics for their work on asset price forecasting.


African leaders lose – The Mo Ibrahim prize for good governance in Africa is awarded to nobody for the fourth time in five years. (BBC)

Home-grown – Russia’s Side by Side LGBT festival wins appeal against its ‘foreign agent’ classification. (The Guardian)

Professional smoker – A Chinese tobacco appraiser has been smoking up to 30 cigarettes a day over a 21-year career. (Quartz)

Criminal campaign – Indian politicians wear jail time as a badge of honor. (New York Times)

Journey to Mount Arafat – Muslim pilgrims start Hajj in Saudi Arabia. (Associated Press)

From the File:

  • Bangladesh garment factory workers detain boss until he pays bonus.
  • Malaysian court rules only Muslims can use “Allah.”
  • Kerry says Syria peace conference should be held soon.
  • More migrants reach Italy as government prepares to boost sea patrols.
  • Belgium detains suspected Somali pirate kingpin, says Belgian media.
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