35 bodies recovered from well after structure collapses at Indian temple
NEW DELHI, India (AP) – Thirty-five bodies have been found inside a well at a Hindu temple in central India after dozens of people fell into the muddy water when the well’s lid collapsed, officials said Friday.
Video of Thursday’s collapse at the temple complex in Indore in Madhya Pradesh state showed chaos afterward, with people rushing toward the exits. An excavator pulled down a wall of the twenty-year-old temple to help people flee.
Nearly 140 rescuers, including army personnel, used ropes and ladders to pull the bodies out of the well after the water was pumped out. A narrow path and debris in the well made the task difficult.
Witnesses said that a large crowd of exiles had thronged the temple to perform fire rituals and celebrate the festival for the deity Rama.
Thousands of people fell into the water when the structure above the well collapsed and was covered in falling debris, said Police Commissioner Makrand Deoskar.
Kantibhai Patel, president of a residents’ association, told reporters that the authorities were slow to respond and that the first ambulance arrived at the scene an hour after the alert.
The structure apparently caved in because it could not handle the weight of the large crowd, said the state’s chief elected official, Shivraj Singh Chauhan. He ordered an investigation.
“We have recovered 35 bodies so far and the rescue operation is continuing,” said Ilayaraja T, district administrator. The effort was continuing on Friday.
A team of army rescuers joined the operation on Thursday night. The Times of India newspaper reported that the rescue work was accelerated after underwater cameras showed bodies floating in the muddy waters of the well.
Chauhan said 33 of the bodies were identified and one was unaccounted for. Sixteen of the injured were still in hospital on Friday.
Indore Temple Tragedy Death Toll Rises To 35 https://t.co/VLe94drdmY pic.twitter.com/8MWJthteJ0
— NDTV (@ndtv) March 31, 2023
The Temple authorities stopped using the well years ago and covered the mouth with iron grates and tiles.
Municipal authorities in January ordered the temple owners to remove the cover of the well because it was an unsafe and unauthorized structure, but the temple authorities ignored the warning, the newspaper said.
Building collapses are common in India due to poor construction and failure to comply with regulations.
In October, a century-old cable-stayed suspension bridge collapsed into a river in the western state of Gujarat, plunging hundreds of people into the water and killing at least 132 in one of the country’s worst accidents in a decade .