At least 121 people, mostly women, have now been confirmed dead in a stampede at a religious gathering in northern India, a Uttar Pradesh state minister said Wednesday.

Thousands of people had gathered Tuesday for a prayer meeting and sermon organized by a local guru at a tent off a highway in Uttar Pradesh’s Hathras district.

Eyewitnesses reported people suddenly rushed out of the crowded venue as the guru departed. Many slipped and fell along a ditch filled with mud and water.

Most of the deaths were caused by suffocation and trampling, a local administration official said.

Uttar Pradesh Education Minister Sandeep Singh said that 121 people have died so far. “The probe has started and whoever is found responsible will be punished,” he added.

Among the victims were over 100 women and at least seven children. The police are searching for the self-styled guru known as Bhole Baba, who organized Tuesday’s event.

Investigators and sniffer dogs were seen working on an open muddy field Wednesday where an estimated 150,000 people had gathered for the event, according to broadcaster NDTV news channel.

Sandals, slippers, clothing and a baby’s milk bottle could still be seen strewn around the ground.

At least 35 people were being treated at local hospitals for serious injuries, according to a statement from the office of the state relief commissioner.

The Daily Sabah Newsletter

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