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Saturday, June 10, 2023

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

At least 35 people died Thursday after the floor of a Hindu temple in central India fell into a well, local authorities said.

The incident occurred at the Sri Beleshwar Mahadev Julelal Temple in Indore, Madhya Pradesh. Head of State Shivraj Singh Chouhan said the foundations collapsed “under the heavyweight” at the top.

Madhya Pradesh Home Minister Narottam Mishra initially said Thursday that 19 people had been rescued from the sinkhole, but two people later died. He added that water was pumped from a well to help with rescue efforts. A stairwell is a large fountain or tank with a ladder that descends to the water level.

In the afternoon, senior Ilayaraja district official T told reporters that 35 bodies had been recovered, with one person still missing and 16 injured.

“There’s a lot of mud. Once we are done clearing out the mud, we will do another search,” he said. Army and civil protection teams from the federal and state governments were involved in the rescue.

“Even though we have tried our best, we haven’t been able to save many lives,” Chouhan said, adding that he had ordered an investigation into the incident.

Videos and images of the rescue operation show a vast gaping hole beneath the shrine, with people climbing ladders to the surface and authorities dragging ropes down. Hanging from the edge is a metal wire structure that appears to have come loose; Outside, an anxious crowd gathered outside the temple as authorities carried the injured on stretchers.

Thursday is Rama Navami, a Hindu festival celebrating the birth of the god Ram, often celebrated by pilgrims visiting the temple and performing religious chants or songs.

Photos from the shrine in Indore show items strewn on the ground near the pit, including candles, offerings, and sweets.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi offered his condolences to the victims and their families on Thursday, tweeting that he was “deeply hurt” by the incident. “The state government is carrying out rescue and relief work quickly,” he said.

The injured and victims’ families will be compensated by the government, Chouhan said.

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