VARANASI: At least 24 people were killed and many were injured in a stampede at a religious gathering on the outskirts of Uttar Pradesh’s Varanasi on Saturday. The stampede broke out when thousands of devotees of a religious leader tried to cross a bridge at once. Followers of Jai Gurudev, the leader of a sect, were moving in a procession towards his ashram and far too many were near the iron Rajghat bridge, say officials. Instead of 4,000 people expected by the administration, around 50,000 allegedly showed up. A man died of suffocation because of the surging crowds, which led to panic. Rumours that the bridge had collapsed fueled more chaos, said police chief Javeed Ahmed. “We are investigating crowd management and will take action against those responsible,” Mr Ahmed said. The sect claims that it had warned the police more people would turn up. Meanwhile, a government spokesman in Lucknow said that the situation in Chandauli is being monitored and all necessary measures were being taken. An inquiry will be instituted to find out the cause of the stampede, he said. Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed grief over the loss of lives in a stampede in Varanasi. “Deeply saddened by the loss of lives in the stampede in Varanasi. Condolences to the bereaved families. Prayers with those injured,” he tweeted. “I have spoken to officials & asked them to ensure all possible help to those affected due to the stampede in Varanasi,” he said in another tweet. At least 19 people were killed and several injured in the stampede at Rajghat bridge between Varanasi and Chandauli where a large number of people had gathered for a religious event this afternoon.