Special Correspondent

The 136-foot ‘rajagopuram' in shambles

Vertical fissure develops along the face of the tower

Services of experts from IIT Chennai requisitioned

TIRUPATI: As feared, the 136-foot ‘rajagopuram' of the Srikalahasti temple, which has been in a precarious condition due to a deep fissure along its face, crashed on Wednesday with a huge thud.

The 15th century tower built by Srikrishnadevaraya to mark his visit to the shrine as part of his triumphant march across his empire is now in complete shambles and the whole area has plunged into darkness.

It was not known immediately whether there were casualties in the wake of the crash of the gopuram as there was pandemonium in the area even as the police, temple and other government authorities swung into action for relief and restoration activities.

Authorities warned

Earlier, the authorities had to order immediate cordoning of the area around the temple. The services of a team of experts from IIT Chennai had to be requisitioned for a thorough evaluation of all its parameters, especially the deep vertical fissure that developed all along the face of the tower.

The team comprising, among others, Narasimha Rao, a retired professor from IIT, Chennai, and Ramamohan Rao, a geologist, warned the temple authorities that the ancient tower was in such a dangerous position that a cyclone or a powerful gale was enough to make it crumble. It is at the instance of the team that the temple and the civic authorities asked all the residents around to vacate immediately. The 150-metre radius around the dilapidated tower is said to have been declared a ‘danger zone' and sealed.

Sources said that though a thin crack on the gopuram had been existing for the last 25-30 years amid ad hoc repairs, it started deepening in recent times, especially after the recent cyclone ‘Laila'.