The stampede occurred around 2.45 a.m. Saturday when a large number of devotees entered the Mata Vaishno Devi Bhawan without permission slips on new year.

Officials said the stampede took place outside the sanctum Santorum of the shrine near gate number three outside the sanctum sanctorum of the shrine located atop the Trikuta hills, about 50 km from Jammu.

Officials at the spot said the incident was triggered by a heavy rush of devotees who came to pay their obeisance to mark the beginning of the New Year.

Devotees usually trek to the hilltop shrine from the Katra base camp, a distance of nearly 13 km, while some reach there by helicopter.

Senior officials present at the scene said 12 people died in the stampede and their bodies have been taken to a hospital in the Katra base camp for identification.

Fifteen injured were undergoing treatment at the Mata Vaishno Devi Narayana Superspeciality Hospital, and the condition of two of them was stated to be critical. Some were discharged after first-aid, they added.

Aditya Sharma, a pilgrim, said there was a heavy rush of devotees and some people who were sleeping on the floor got crushed.

Eight of the deceased were identified as Arun Pratab Singh (30), Dharam Veer Singh (35), Vineet Kumar (38) and Shamta Singh (35) of Uttar Pradesh, Vinay Kumar (24) and Sonu Panday (24) of Delhi, Mamta (38) of Haryana and Desraj Kumar (26) of Rajouri district of Jammu and Kashmir, the officials said, adding the identities of the rest are yet to be ascertained.

They said the shrine was open, and as per last reports, devotees were paying obeisance.

President Ram Nath Kovind said he was very distressed to know about the stampede and offered condolences to the bereaved families. ”I wish speedy recovery to those injured,” office of the Jammu and Kashmir Lieutenant Governor  said.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said, ”The stampede at Mata Vaishno Devi temple is tragic. I extend my condolences to the families of the deceased.” Union Minister Jitendra Singh said he was headed to Katra to take stock of the situation.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi talking to Lieutenant Governor (L-G) Sinha and Union ministers Jitendra Singh and Nityanand Rai to take stock of the situation.

”Extremely saddened by the loss of lives due to a stampede at Mata Vaishno Devi Bhawan. Condolences to the bereaved families. May the injured recover soon,” Modi tweeted.

The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) announced an ex gratia grant for the victims.

”An ex gratia of Rs 2 lakh each from PMNRF would be given to the next of kin of those who lost their lives due to the stampede at Mata Vaishno Devi Bhawan. The injured would be given Rs 50,000: PM @narendramodi,” the PMO tweeted.

”Spoke to Hon’ble Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi Ji. Briefed him about the incident. Hon’ble Prime Minister has assured all the help. Ex-gratia of Rs 10 lakh each would be given to the next of kin of those who lost their lives due to stampede and Rs 2 lakh to injured. Shrine board to bear the cost of treatment of injured,” Lieutenant Governor (L-G) Sinha added.

Helpline numbers issued by authorites :  Jammu helpline numbers are: Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board Helpline nos: 01991-234804 01991-234053

Other Helpline nos : PCR Katra 01991232010/ 9419145182 PCR Reasi 0199145076/ 9622856295 DC Office Reasi Control room 01991245763/ 9419839557.