The death toll in the Indore temple stepwell roof collapse rose to 35 on Friday (March 31), as more bodies were recovered by rescue workers.
The slab constructed on top of an ancient ‘bawdi’ or well collapsed during a havan program held on the occasion of Ram Navami at a temple in Indore city on Thursday (March 30).
So far 35 bodies have been recovered from the stepwell, District Collector Dr Ilayaraja T told reporters.
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“Eighteen people were admitted to the hospital, out of which two have been discharged. A total of 35 people have died. One person is still missing. Army, NDRF and SDRF teams are conducting search and rescue operation,” ANI quoted him as saying.
The Beleshwar Mahadev Jhulelal temple in Patel Nagar where the tragedy took place had been constructed after covering the stepwell about four decades ago.
While initially 14 bodies were recovered including 12 of women, State Disaster Response Force DIG Mahesh Chandra Jain told reporters late on Thursday night that 12 more bodies were found during the rescue operation, while two others died at a hospital.
On Thursday night, it was suspected that five more bodies were under water at the bottom of the stepwell.
Ilayaraja said water in the stepwell was being pumped out to find the missing person.
An Army rescue team from nearby Mhow town has been called in for help, he said. A magisterial inquiry will be conducted into the incident, he added.
Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan has announced a financial assistance of ₹5 lakh for the families of the deceased while the injured will be given ₹50,000 each.
Rescue operations were hampered as the temple is located in a narrow area. One of its walls was broken to insert a pipe for pumping out water from the well, officials said.
An eyewitness told PTI that during the religious programme on the occasion of Ram Navami, there was a huge crowd of devotees on the slab which covered the ancient well. The slab could not bear the weight and collapsed around 12 noon.
Patel Nagar Residents Association president Kantibhai Patel claimed that ambulances did not reach the spot for more than an hour after being informed about the accident.
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Expressing grief over the incident, Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted, “Extremely pained by the mishap in Indore. Spoke to CM Shivraj Chouhan Ji and took an update on the situation. The state government is spearheading rescue and relief work at a quick pace. My prayers with all those affected and their families.”
State home minister Narottam Mishra said that probe has been ordered into the matter, particularly to find out how the temple was allowed to be constructed over a well.
(With inputs from agencies)