Death toll in Indore temple tragedy rises to 35; search on for one missing person

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INDORE: The death toll in the Indore temple step-well roof collapse incident rose to 35 on Friday and a search operation is currently under way to trace one missing person, an official said.

The slab constructed on top of an ancient ‘bawdi’ or step-well collapsed during a ‘havan’ programme held on the occasion of Ram Navami at the Beleshwar Mahadev Jhulelal temple in the city on Thursday, plunging several devotees into the water reservoir below. The temple located in Patel Nagar, where the tragedy took place, had been constructed after covering the square-shaped step-well of around 20 ft x 20 ft size about four decades ago.

“Our search operation, being carried out with the help of Army, National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and State Disaster Response Force (SDRF), is nearing completion. So far, 35 bodies have been recovered from the well,” Indore District Magistrate Ilayaraja T told reporters from the site of the incident.

The bodies of all persons, except one, whose names were mentioned in the list of missing persons, have been recovered so far, he said.

There is a lot of silt in the well and it is being removed to trace the missing person, Illayaraja said.

Earlier, Indore Divisional Commissioner (Revenue) Pawan Kumar Sharma said 16 people injured in the mishap had been admitted to a hospital, while two others were sent home after first aid.

Eyewitnesses said that after 11.30pm on Thursday, the process of recovering bodies from the well and sending them to a hospital for post-mortem intensified.

A joint team of the Army and the NDRF descended into the well with the help of a crane and trolley to recover the bodies.

The rescue operation was initially hampered as the temple is built in a narrow space and a wall was broken to lower a pipe to pump out water from the well, officials said.

An eyewitness said that during the religious programme, there was a huge crowd of devotees at the temple and its floor caved in as it could not bear the load.

Locals said the temple was built by laying a slab over the ancient step-well.