BARAHCHHETRA: One pilgrim drowned while another was killed in a stampede during a gathering in Sunsari's Barahchhetra last night. At least 25 devotees were injured when they slipped down a narrow path.

Laxman Shah, 55, of Karjain in India's Supaul and Dev Narayan Yadav, 70, of Saptari's Amarpur, were killed, according to Haribodhini Mela Main Organising Committee. Yadav drowned in the Koka River in his bid to take a holy dip.

The two dozen pilgrims, who were trapped in a crowd on a congested path, slipped and got hurt. Bhishan Rai, a member of Festival Publicity Committee, said the condition of some of the injured was serious. The huge crowd, however, has hindered the rescue worksIt. They have only been given first aid.

When the Brahmananda bridge collapsed the same night, the pilgrims had to take the dangerous path. Most of the injured are senior citizens and children.

A large crowd of devotees had spread in the eight-kilometre area from Chatara to Barahchhetra. Pilgrims, many of whom are Indian citizens, have been flocking to the shrine every year.

Meanwhile,the devotees, who spent night in the open sky, blamed mismanagement for the sorry state of affairs.

Only 45 police personnel had been mobilised to take care of 300,000 devotees.

However,the organising committee said that the total turnout was four times their expectation.

According to Sunsari LDO Prem Prasad Bhattarai, who coordinates the Main Organising Committee, special teams have been mobilised for the rescue operations.