A stampede at a Hindu bathing festival in India has killed at least 27 pilgrims and injured dozens on Tuesday in Andhra Pradesh, where thousands of Hindus gathered to bath in the Godavari River for the Maha Pushkaralu festival.
The stampede happened at the start of the festival when people rushed into the river to take a dip, according to their beliefs, they will rid themselves of their sins.
"The incident happened as the first set of worshippers were coming out of the river after taking a dip and then got in the way of others who wanted to be in the water at an auspicious time," A. Srinivasan Rao, a deputy superintendent of police, told AFP.
Officials said most of the victims were crushed to death, while other drowned in the river.
A pilgrim, V. Satyanarayana, told AP that the stampede lasted 20 minutes.
"It was a frightening situation, with women and children crying for help. The policemen on duty were helpless and it took more than an hour to bring the situation under control," he said.
Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi said he was "deeply pained at the loss of lives due to stampede at Rajahmundry" in a statement posted on his Twitter account.
The festival will last 12 days with more than 20 million people expected to gather in the banks of Godavari River.
Deadly stampedes happen frequently in India where religious festivals drive large crowds to small areas. A stampede in the Madhya Pradesh state killed 115 people, mostly women and children, in October 2013.