Relatives consoled Shamsiran Begum, center, the mother of one of the five students who died during a stampede on a narrow school staircase in New Delhi on Thursday.
NEW DELHI — Hundreds of students who were jammed into a narrow school staircase panicked and set off a stampede Thursday that left five girls dead and 31 other students injured in India's capital.
Five of the injured were in critical condition, said O.P. Kalra, medical superintendent of the Guru Tegh Bahadur Hospital, where the injured boys and girls were taken.
The stampede occurred early in the day as students arrived for an exam, Kalra told reporters.
Amod Kant, a former police officer and well-known child rights activist, said the students taking the exam were told to move to a higher floor of the school because of heavy rains and flooding on the ground floor. The stampede erupted amid the chaos of moving students up the stairs when others suddenly came rushing down.
"The exams were about to start when suddenly some boys came inside. They pushed us and then we came out. We were coming down the staircase when the stampede took place," student Sanjana Gautam told the Press Trust of India news agency.
The students ranged from 8 to 16 years old, police spokesman Rajan Bhagat said.
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