14 killed, 50 hurt as pandal collapses in Rajasthan
Barmer/Jaipur: At least 14 people were killed and about 50 injured after a pandal fell on them due to strong winds and heavy rains during a religious programme in Barmer district of Rajasthan on Sunday, police said.
A 'Ram Katha' was organised at a school ground near Rani Bhatiyani temple in Jasol area of the district. The pandal was uprooted by strong winds, trapping the people sitting under it, police said, adding hundreds of devotees were attending the programme.
"At least 14 persons have died in the incident and about 50 are injured. Reasons for the deaths will be clear after postmortem," said Ratan Lal Bhargava, Additional Superintendent of Police of Balotara.
He said the injured were rushed to different hospitals in the district.
Eyewitnesses claimed that the tent got uprooted due to the winds and hovered for a few seconds in the air before collapsing.
The person leading the 'Ram Katha', Murlidhar Maharaj, stopped midway and asked people to leave as the pandal started to collapse. He scurried from the stage within seconds, following which the pandal collapsed, leading to a stampede-like situation, they said.
No immediate information was available about the condition of Maharaj.
A shopkeeper said locals who rushed to rescue the victims felt current in the structure of the pandal. However, they rescued those trapped inside and took them to hospitals in private vehicles and mini-vans.
The programme was organised by Rani Bhatiyani Mandir Sansthan. It started on Saturday and was about to continue until June 30.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi condoled the incident.
"Collapse of a 'Pandaal' in Rajasthan's Barmer is unfortunate. My thoughts are with the bereaved families and I wish the injured a quick recovery," the Prime Minister's Office quoted him as saying in a tweet.
Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot took stock of the situation from Jaipur and ordered a probe into the incident.
He said rescue operations were being carried out by the district administration. He also directed officials to ensure proper relief works and treatment of those injured.
Union minister of state for agriculture Kailash Chaudhary, who is the local MP, said he was leaving for Barmer from Delhi to meet the families of the victims and the injured.