NEW DELHI (AFP) – The death toll after a floor collapsed at a Hindu temple in India had risen to 35 yesterday, with rescue operations underway to find one person still missing, a local official told AFP.
Dozens of worshippers celebrating a major religious holiday plunged into the stepwell – a stair-lined communal water source – on Thursday after the floor covering it collapsed in the central city of Indore.
“Thirty-five people are dead. One person is still missing. Rescue operations are on,” Indore district magistrate Ilayaraja T told AFP by phone.
A witness at the scene told AFP that rescuers were working to determine whether or not one more person reported missing had also fallen down the well. Women, children and an 18-month-old baby were among those standing on the grill covering the well when it buckled and gave way, plunging them into about 7.5 metres of water, the Times of India newspaper reported.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Thursday he was “extremely pained” by news of the accident.
“The state government is spearheading rescue and relief work at a quick pace,” he added.
“My prayers with all those affected and their families.”
Modi’s office said compensation payments of USD2,400 would be given to the next of kin.
Home Minister of Madhya Pradesh state Narottam Mishra told reporters on Thursday that an investigation had been launched into the mishap.
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.