At least 25 people were killed and more than a dozen injured when the roof of a shed at a crematorium in Muradnagar town of Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh, collapsed on Sunday.
Anurag Bhargava, chief medical superintendent, MMG Hospital, said 13 people were undergoing treatment at different hospitals in Ghaziabad and Muradnagar. Official sources said the number of deaths could increase as some of the injured were in serious condition.
Local sources said the incident took place after the victims, who were attending the funeral of a local fruit merchant, took shelter in the shed due to heavy rain.
Gaurav Nigam, who lost his cousin Omkar and brother-in-law Sunil in the accident, said at least 100 people were under the shed when the roof collapsed around 10.30 a.m. He said that multiple bodies were waiting to be cremated when the incident happened.
Later in the evening, an FIR was registered against government officials and a contractor for culpable homicide, not amounting to murder. Executive Officer of Muradnagar Nagar Palika, Niharika Singh, was among those booked. The shed was built by the Nagar Palika a couple of months ago.
The FIR also named junior engineer Chandrapal, Ashish, supervisor and contractor Ajay Tyagi. Sections 304, 337, 338, 427, and 409 of the IPC have been invoked against the accused in the FIR lodged on a complaint filed by one Deepak who lost his father in the incident.
Locals expressed concern over the material used for building the shed. They said the rubble showed that very little cement was used in construction.
Vijaypal Singh who lost his son-in-law in the incident said the Nagar Palika should take responsibility for the poor construction.
Muradnagar MLA Ajit Tyagi told reporters, “The waiting area was built only a couple of months back. Those guilty of laxity would not be spared.”
Earlier, the district administration launched a rescue operation and two teams of the National Disaster Rescue Force reached the spot.
P.K. Tiwari, Commandant of the 8th battalion of the NDRF, said the first team of 40 personnel reached the spot by 1 p.m. “A second team followed soon after. A dog squad was also pressed into service.” He said the operation, which lasted till almost 6 p.m., was one of the biggest that the force had undertaken in the past couple of years.
District Magistrate Ajay Shankar Pandey said prima facie structural defect and heavy rainfall appeared to have led to the incident. “The Chief Minister has ordered an inquiry under the supervision of Divisional Commissioner, Meerut and IG Meerut. Chief Engineers of Ghaziabad Nagar Nigam and Ghaziabad Development Authority will provide the technical inputs,” he said.
“We are in touch with the families of the deceased and the injured and are making arrangements to send the bodies home after post-mortem. A revenue officer and a police officer will accompany them,” he added.
Iraj Raja, Superintendent of Police (Rural), said the cremation ground catered to a large area and at a given time the last rites of two to three people are conducted there. “The shed was almost 25 feet long and prima facie it seems it came down because of the heavy downpour,” he said.
Earlier, expressing grief, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath directed senior officials of the Meerut Zone to rush to the spot and provide relief to the injured. He announced an ex-gratia compensation of ₹ 2 lakh each to the kin of the deceased and ₹50000 to the injured.