India "stepwell" temple collapse death toll jumps to 35 in tragedy that hit Hindu worshipers
New Delhi — At least 35 people died Thursday when the floor of a Hindu temple in central India collapsed under the weight of faithful who had flocked to the site to mark a holy day. Dozens of people in the Beleshwar Mahadev temple in Madhya Pradesh state's Indore city fell into the stairwell of a walk-in "stepwell" when the floor underneath them collapsed Thursday morning.
The incident took place as Hindu devotees marked Ram Navami, celebrated as the birthday of the Hindu god Ram.
"So far 35 bodies have been recovered from the stepwell," senior district official Dr. Ilayaraja T told Indian media on Friday.
Police said Thursday that at least 17 people were rescued from the well. Stepwells were common architecture in India until the 1800s. The structures vary greatly in size and ornateness, with some of the larger ones among India's biggest tourist attractions.
Most of those rescued Thursday were brought to a local hospital and treated for injuries.
Police and rescue teams used ropes and ladders to bring people up off the stairwell.
The state's Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan called the collapse "unfortunate." On Friday he said he'd ordered a formal inquiry into the accident. He also announced that the families of people killed in the collapse would receive the equivalent of about $6,100 each in government support, and the families of those injured about $610 each.
The rescue operation had ended by late afternoon local time on Thursday.
India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he was "extremely pained by the mishap," adding that he had spoken with the state's chief minister for an update on the situation as the state government was "spearheading rescue and relief work at a quick pace."
Modi, who is Hindu, said his prayers were with the families of those affected.
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