At least 105 Hindu pilgrims have been killed in a stampede after thousands of Hindu devotees were returning from an Indian religious festival, officials say.
The stampede occurred on the final day of the pilgrimage at the Sabarimala shrine, located in Idukki district in southern Kerala, about 200 kilometers from the state capital Thiruvananthapuram.
Sabarimala, located in southwest India, attracts between three to four million people every year.
Police officials said an overloaded jeep had lost control and ploughed into a crowd of devotees packed onto a narrow road in a hilly and densely forested area 10 kilometers (six miles) from the shrine.
“The accident caused a mass panic and triggered a stampede on the hillside,” said Special Police Commissioner Rajendra Nair.
The search for bodies and survivors was hampered by the remote location, heavy mist and the thick forest terrain.
It is the second time in recent memory that the festival has been struck by disaster. In 1999, more than 50 Hindu devotees lost their lives following a landslide on a crowded hillside at the site.
Stampedes at public events in India are common as large numbers of people crowd into congested areas. Few safety regulations, along with absent -- or inadequate -- policing, mean panic can spread quickly with deadly consequences.
The governor of Kerala, a popular holiday destination and spice-growing region with sandy beaches and lush green mountains, expressed his sadness over the tragic event.