35 Bodies Found in Well After Temple Collapse

Authorities in India say weight of crowd caused cover to collapse
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Mar 31, 2023 4:12 AM CDT
35 Dead in India Temple Disaster
People stand around a structure built over an old temple well that collapsed Thursday as a large crowd of devotees gathered for the Ram Navami Hindu festival in Indore, India, Thursday, March 30, 2023.   (AP Photo)

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 cover 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 decades-old temple to help people flee. Nearly 140 rescuers, including army personnel, used ropes and ladders to pull the bodies from the well after pumping out the water, the AP reports. A narrow path and debris in the well made the task difficult.

Witnesses said a large crowd of devotees had thronged the temple to perform a fire ritual and celebrate the festival for the deity Rama. Dozens of people fell into the water and were covered by falling debris when the structure over the well collapsed, police Commissioner Makrand Deoskar said. 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. The structure apparently caved in because it could not handle the weight of the large crowd, said the state's top elected official, Shivraj Singh Chauhan. He ordered an investigation.

Chauhan said 33 of the bodies have been identified and at least one person is unaccounted for. Sixteen of the people who were injured remained hospitalized Friday. Temple authorities had stopped using the well years ago and covered the mouth with iron grills and tiles. Municipal authorities in January ordered temple owners to remove the covering of the well because it was an unsafe and unauthorized structure, but temple authorities ignored the warning, the Times of India reports.

(More India stories.)

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