At least 14 devotees, ten of them women, were killed when the roof of a stepwell at a temple in Madhya Pradesh’s Indore collapsed on Thursday morning. Among the 19 others who were rescued alive following the mishap, some are said to be in critical condition.
The victims were part of a crowd that had gathered at the Shri Beleshwar Mahadev Jhulelal Temple in Indore’s Patel Nagar area for Ram Navmi celebrations. The roof of the stepwell, that also served as the temple floor and was made of concrete slabs supported by iron rods, caved in due to the combined weight of too many devotees.
The Madhya Pradesh Government has ordered a probe into the incident and announced an ex-gratia amount of ₹5 lakh to be paid to the next of kin of the deceased, while ₹50,000 will be given to the injured.
‘Guilty will be punished’
“It was an old step well which was covered. 19 people have been rescued alive. This was an extremely tragic incident when 11 bodies were taken out from there [the step-well]. Of those who were rescued, one or two are said to be critical,” Madhya Pradesh Home Minister Narottam Mishra said, giving the status of the victims around 5:45 p.m. on Thursday evening. “Because the water had become muddy [due to debris mixing with shallow water], efforts are on to take out the [untraced] children who had gone missing… Whoever is found guilty in the probe will face action,” he added.
“Around 11.45 am, the roof of the stepwell collapsed and nearly 50 people fell inside the step well… The covered part was a 16x16 feet structure and the depth was around 50 feet,” eyewitness Mahesh Gulani told a TV channel at the temple site. Three of Mr. Gulani’s family members were among those trapped, and their fate remains unknown.
Mr. Gulani added that the stepwell was at least 50 years old and that the temple next to it was an old structure which was later renovated to accommodate the step-well area by simply covering it. Bharatiya Janata Party national general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya — who hails from Indore and was also among the visitors at the temple — told journalists that the temple in its expanded form had existed for over four decades and many visitors were likely not even aware that a step-well existed beneath its floors.
Rescue operations were reportedly affected by the narrow entry points and the fear of debris from nearby walls collapsing into the water.
President Droupadi Murmu and leaders across the political spectrum expressed their condolences over the incident.
“Extremely pained by the mishap in Indore. Spoke to CM @ChouhanShivraj Ji and took an update on the situation. The State Government is spearheading rescue and relief work at a quick pace. My prayers with all those affected and their families,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted.