Nineteen people, including six women and three children, were injured today in a fire that broke out at the ongoing Maha Kumbh congregation here, triggering panic among sadhus and pilgrims and sending the administrative machinery into a tizzy.
The fire broke out this evening at the "pandal" of Ram Janaki Mandir Trust and soon engulfed the tent set up by the Ram Govind Das Trust in the vicinity, Kumbh Mela Officer Mani Prasad Mishra said.
According to Senior Superintendent of Police (Kumbh Mela) R K S Rathore, "Six women and three children are among those injured in the fire, which was doused after half an hour of struggle by fire brigade personnel deployed at the Kumbh Mela ground who reached the spot as soon as the news spread."
"Some of the critically injured persons have been rushed to the SRN hospital in the city for treatment. Others are being treated at a temporary hospital set up at the Kumbh Mela ground. Their condition is being closely monitored and arrangements are in place to rush more people to SRN hospital if such a need arises," he said.
The SSP said, "The fire appears to be the result of leakage in one or more gas cylinders installed, at either of the two pandals, for cooking purposes. An inquiry will be undertaken to ascertain the same and take precautionary measures in future."
Meanwhile, both the pandals have been reduced to ashes and the site where these were erected lay strewn with charred utensils and other belongings of the sadhus and other pilgrims who, upon learning about the fire, rushed out of the tents leaving their things behind.
Officials of the trusts, to which the pandals belonged, have begun efforts to put up new tents and marquees at their respective sites.
This was the first such incident after the Maha Kumbh Mela, often described as the "greatest show on earth", began on the confluence of Ganga, Yamuna and the mythical river Saraswati on January 14 on Makar Sankranti.
Held every 12 years, it will conclude on Maha Shivratri on March 10.