At least 35 killed after well covering collapses during celebration at Indian temple
At least 35 people have been killed and 16 injured after the roof of a historic stepwell in an Indian temple complex collapsed on festival goers.
Hindu followers were celebrating Ram Navami in the city of Indore on Thursday when a concrete slab covering the roof of a stepwell crushed them, Indian officials confirmed on Friday.
Videos showed chaos afterward, with people rushing toward the exits. An excavator pulled down a wall of the decades-old temple to help people flee.
Thousands of Hindu devotees across India thronged Ram temples since early morning to pay their obeisance to Lord Ram and complete rituals.
Stepwells are a common feature across India, built hundreds of years ago, many of them ornately decorated, with access to a body of water through stairs and niches.
“The stepwell was covered, but the slab covering it collapsed because of the crowd and extra load on it,” Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister, Shivraj Singh Chouhan, the central Indian state where Indore is located, told reporters.
“I have given instructions to investigate the incident. In this unfortunate incident, the government stands with all those families with full sensitivity, whom we could not save,” he added.
Nearly 140 rescuers worked through the day to remove debris, using ropes and ladders to pull out people who had fallen into the well after pumping out the water.
Dozens of people fell into the water when the structure over the well collapsed and were covered by falling debris, police Commissioner Makrand Deoskar said.
Photos show emergency services carrying stretchers of the injured through large crowds of onlookers and into awaiting ambulances.
Kantibhai Patel, president of a residents’ association, told reporters that authorities were slow to react and the first ambulance reached the spot an hour after the alert.
“We have rescued 18 people, 35 have been found dead and 16 are injured,” Ilayaraja T, a top local government official, told Reuters.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed condolences and announced compensation for the dead and injured in the incident.
“Extremely pained by the mishap in Indore,” he wrote on Twitter.
“The State Government is spearheading rescue and relief work at a quick pace. My prayers with all those affected and their families.”
The Times of India newspaper reported the rescue work was expedited after underwater cameras showed bodies floating in the muddy waters of the well.
Temple authorities had stopped using the well years ago and covered the mouth with iron grills and tiles.
Local authorities in January ordered temple owners to remove the covering of the well because it was an unsafe and unauthorised structure, but temple authorities ignored the warning, the newspaper said.
Building collapses are common in India because of poor construction and a failure to observe regulations.
In October, a century-old cable suspension bridge collapsed into a river in the western state of Gujarat, sending hundreds of people plunging into the water and killing at least 132 in one of the worst accidents in the country in the past decade.