‘Saw death’: Witness recounts fear, ordeal in Kochi University stampede | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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‘Saw death’: Witness recounts fear, ordeal in Kochi University stampede

Nov 27, 2023 02:04 PM IST

For the past month, student coordinators as well as the managemen has been in the thick of action at CUSAT, as part of preparations for the three-day tech fest.

It was around 6:45 pm on Saturday that Sijimol KK, who works in the office of the principal of the engineering department at Cochin University of Science and Technology, reached the open-air auditorium where a concert by Bollywood playback singer Nikhita Gandhi was scheduled to begin.

Bereaved classmates of four students who died after a stampede during the annual festival of Cochin University of Science and Technology (CUSAT). (PTI)
Bereaved classmates of four students who died after a stampede during the annual festival of Cochin University of Science and Technology (CUSAT). (PTI)

For the past month, Sijimol has been in the thick of action at CUSAT, liaising with student coordinators as well as the management as part of preparations for the three-day tech fest, which began on Friday. The concert by Gandhi was one of the main attractions of the fest.

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Having worked at CUSAT for over four years and having attended many programmes at the auditorium in the past, Siji-mol said she was aware of the venue's infrastructure. The auditorium, which doesn't have seats or benches, can take in a standing capacity of nearly 3,000 people Located on the main road, there are a dozen or so steps leading down to it, with ample space ahead and on both sides and a big stage at the end.

"The gate of the auditorium was held slightly open to let in those who had registered for the tech fest, including those of the engineering department. Since they were all wearing the black t-shirt of the tech fest, it was easy to identify them," recalled Siji-mol. "I also entered through the gate and began walking down the stairs. The concert hadn't begun at that time. There were few people inside the hall."

"When I was at the bottom of the stairs, a crowd suddenly surged in from outside, maybe due to the sudden rains. I got pushed from behind and became sandwiched between two students to the point where I could not breathe. It was dark as well.

I heard someone next to me saying her leg was stuck. I wanted to help her, but I could barely move," she said. "I screamed, 'help, I'm dying.' I saw my death in front of me and within a few seconds, I passed out."

On the steps of the auditorium, where Sijimol was caught, a stampede on Saturday night led to the death of four persons, including three engineering students of the university.

"As per the initial findings from the autopsy report, the cause of death was asphyxiation, state health minister Veena George said.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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    Vishnu Varma is Assistant Editor and reports from Kerala for the Hindustan Times. He has 10 years of experience writing for print and digital platforms and has worked at The New York Times, NDTV and The Indian Express in the past. He specialises in longform reportage at the intersections of politics, crime, social commentary and environment.

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