World Briefs: Stampede kills at least 14 during religious festival

PATNA | At least 14 people were killed, including some children, in a stampede Monday night during a religious festival in the eastern state of Bihar, police said.

The stampede occurred as hundreds of Hindu worshippers gathered along the bank of the Ganges River in Patna to offer prayers to the sun god during the Chhath festival, police Superintendent Jayant Kant said.

A power outage sparked panic as crowds filled a makeshift bamboo walkway leading from the riverbank into the Ganges, he said, and people trampled one another as they fought to get to shore.

About 20 people were rushed to the hospital, some in critical condition, he said.

Deadly stampedes are fairly common during India’s often-chaotic religious festivals, which regularly include tens of thousands of worshippers.

Nine people were killed in a September stampede during another festival in eastern India.

IRAN

Iran starts building pipeline to Syria for natural gas

TEHRAN | Iran has started construction on a $10 billion natural gas pipeline to key ally Syria, a news agency reported Monday, in an apparent nod of support to President Bashar Assad’s embattled regime and a further attempt by Tehran to boost energy exports battered by international sanctions.

The 750-mile project was first announced in July 2011 as Syrian rebels began stepping up the fight to topple Assad.

Many analysts predicted the pipeline would remain in the planning stages because of the countless risks involved, but Iran’s decision to start work — even just the beginning sections — is seen a public show of confidence in Mr. Assad’s ability to ride out the uprising.

It also reflects Iran’s wider efforts to expand natural gas and oil pipelines to Middle East and Asian markets as Western sanctions over Tehran’s nuclear program cut into sales.

The U.S. and its allies accuse Tehran of seeking to develop atomic weapons, an allegation the Iranians deny.

The semiofficial Fars news agency said Iran has begun construction of the first phase of the project involving a 140-mile stretch at an estimated cost of $3 billion.

The pipeline will carry natural gas from the giant South Pars field in the Persian Gulf to Syria via Iraq, whose government has close ties with Iran.

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