At least 35 people died after falling into an underground well in an Indian temple

At least 35 people died after falling into an underground well in an Indian temple

(CNN) — At least 35 people fell to their deaths from a flight of stairs at a Hindu temple in central India on Thursday after a roof collapsed, local officials said.

The incident took place at Sri Beleshwar Mahadev Julelal Temple in Indore, Madhya Pradesh. According to state Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, the top of the well cap collapsed “due to overburden”.

Madhya Pradesh Home Minister Narottam Mishra said on Thursday that 19 people were rescued from the well and two later died. Water is being pumped from the step well to help rescue operations. Step wells are large wells or reservoirs with steps leading down to the water table.

Later that night, Senior District Officer Ilayaraja D told reporters that they had recovered 35 bodies, one was still missing and 16 were injured.

“There are many cracks. We will conduct a repeated search after we complete the silt removal,” he said. Army and Central and State Disaster Response Teams are involved in the rescue operation.

“Despite all efforts, we could not save many lives,” Chauhan said, adding that he had ordered an inquiry into the incident.

Videos and pictures of the rescue operation show a large hole in the ground below the temple, with people climbing a ladder and officials pulling ropes down. A metal wiring system can be seen hanging over the edge, which appears to have given way; Outside, anxious people gathered outside the temple, and officials carried the injured on stretchers.

A victim is taken to an ambulance in Indore, India on March 30. (Credit: AP)

This Thursday is Rama Navami, a Hindu festival celebrating the birth of Lord Rama, often marked by devotees visiting temples and chanting religious mantras or mantras.

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Photographs of the Indore temple include candles, offerings and sweets scattered on the ground near the pit.

On Thursday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi condoled the victims and their families and tweeted that he was deeply saddened by the incident. “The state government is carrying out rescue and relief work at a fast pace,” he said.

The injured and the families of the dead will be compensated by the government, Chauhan said.

— CNN’s Rhea Mogul contributed reporting.

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