A 27-year-old man died as more than a million barefoot devotees joined the Philippines’ largest religious procession, honouring a centuries-old statue of Jesus Christ on Saturday, officials said.
The victim suffered from seizures before becoming unconscious during the procession of the Black Nazarene, Philippine Red Cross secretary general Gwendolyn Pang said.
Nearly 400 people were treated for various injuries, high blood pressure and fainting, she added.
Last year, two devotees died during the procession.
Some participants stayed overnight in a Manila park where the Black Nazarene statue was displayed for two days to allow devotees to kiss it and wipe their towels or handkerchiefs on it.
“The crowd of devotees is like a wave of water,” said Johnny Uy, head of the Manila City’s civil defence office. “We expect more people to join the parade later.”
Uy said an estimated 1.5 million were following the procession that would traverse more than 6 kilometres and could take more than 20 hours to complete.
Authorities were expecting the crowd to balloon to several million by evening, he added.
The feast of the Black Nazarene is one of the most celebrated religious events in the predominantly Catholic Philippines, where more than 80 per cent of the population professes the faith.
The wooden statue, crowned with thorns and bearing a cross, is believed to have been brought from Mexico to Manila in 1606 by Spanish missionaries.
The ship that carried it caught fire, but the charred statue survived and named the Black Nazarene.