Eleven Hindu worshippers dead, dozens sick after eating ‘toxic’ rice at temple in India

  • ‘A foul smell was emanating from the food,’ said a witness, adding people still ate it and were ‘vomiting and frothing at the mouth’ soon after
PUBLISHED : Saturday, 15 December, 2018, 2:23pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 15 December, 2018, 9:19pm

Eleven people have died after eating rice that had possibly been contaminated with a toxic substance at a Hindu temple ceremony, a health official said on Saturday.

Another 29 people were critically ill and undergoing emergency treatment at various hospitals in Mysore, a city in the state of Karnataka.

“Eleven people have died so far and 93 others are hospitalised. Out of them, 29 are on ventilator support,” said K. H. Prasad, the health officer for Chamraj Nagar district where the temple is. “It is likely that some toxic substance got mixed with the rice. The samples have been sent for forensic testing.”

The patients were being treated for vomiting, diarrhoea and respiratory distress, Prasad said.

According to the police, devotees had gathered in large numbers at the Kicchukatti Maramma temple for the consecration ceremony on Friday, after which rice was served as a sanctified offering.

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Murugappa, a devotee who was present at the temple, said they were offered tomato rice and flavoured water.

“A foul smell was emanating from the food, but those at the head of the queue consumed the food nonetheless,” he was quoted as saying by the NDTV news network. “A little while later they started vomiting and frothing at the mouth.”

State Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy expressed grief over the incident and announced compensation of 500,000 rupees (around US$7,000) each to the families of the victims.

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India’s religious festivals are often badly managed with police and volunteer stewards overwhelmed by the sheer size of the crowds.

A stampede in eastern West Bengal state last year killed six women and 24 people died in a similar incident in Uttar Pradesh state in 2016.