Death toll in India temple collapse rises to 36

Rescue and security personnel carrying a devotee on a stretcher who was injured after a floor collapsed inside a Hindu temple in Indore. PHOTO: AFP

NEW DELHI – The death toll rose to 36 on Friday after a floor collapsed at a Hindu temple in India, as rescuers discovered the body of the last person still missing, police told AFP. 

Dozens of worshippers celebrating a major religious holiday on Thursday plunged into the stepwell – a stair-lined communal water source – after the floor covering it collapsed in the central city of Indore. 

“Seventeen people were rescued yesterday. Thirty-six bodies have been recovered,” senior police officer Manish Kapooria told AFP.

Women, children and an 18-month-old baby were among those on the grille covering the well when it buckled and gave way, plunging them into about 7.5m of water. 

The bodies of dozens of victims were cremated on pyres near the scene of the accident on Friday after brief funeral rites were conducted. 

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Thursday that he was “extremely pained” by news of the accident. 

“My prayers with all those affected and their families,” he added. 

Mr Modi’s office said compensation payments of 200,000 rupees (S$3,200) would be given to the next of kin. 

Dr Narottam Mishra, home minister of Madhya Pradesh state, told reporters on Thursday that an investigation had been launched into the accident. 

Television footage on Thursday showed emergency workers using ropes and ladders to reach those trapped in the well in Madhya Pradesh state.

Other videos showed the caved-in floor and mangled steel bars as well as police officers using ropes to seal the area. 

Temples across India were brimming with devotees on Thursday on the occasion of Ram Navami, the birthday of the Hindu deity Lord Ram. 

Deadly accidents are common at worship sites in India during major religious festivals. 

In 2016, at least 112 people died after a huge explosion caused by a banned fireworks display at a temple marking the Hindu new year. 

The blast ripped through concrete buildings and ignited a fire at a temple complex in Kerala state where thousands of people had gathered. 

Another 115 devotees died in 2013 after a stampede at a bridge near a temple in Madhya Pradesh state. 

Up to 400,000 people were gathered in the area, and the stampede occurred after a rumour spread that the bridge was about to collapse. 

In 2008, 224 pilgrims died and more than 400 others were injured in a stampede at a hilltop temple in the northern city of Jodhpur. AFP

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