In a tragic accident on Ram Navami, at least 14 people were killed and several others injured after they fell into a deep stepwell, containing water, at a prominent temple in Madhya Pradesh's Indore on Thursday while offering prayers, officials said.
President Draupadi Murmu, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and other leaders expressed their shock and grief at the tragic incident.
The incident occurred at the Baleshwar Mahadev temple.
As per the police, the cover over an old stepwell, around 50 to 60 feet deep, on which devotees were standing to offering their prayers, caved in, due to which around 30 people fell into it.
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Panic spread as people started crying after seeing their beloved gasping for life in the deep well.
District administration and the police swung into action soon and NDRF teams were also called for the rescue operation.
District Collector Illaiaraja T. also reached to monitor the rescue operation and other departments like health and fire were also alerted.
"Rescue operations were severely hampered due to narrow and iron rods on top of the well. Only one person could go inside at one time and similarly only once person could be brought out at one time," a police officer, involved in the rescue operation, said.
Illaiaraja T. said that the rescue operation was still underway and water being drained out of the well. "At least 14 feet water was stored into the well, and the process of draining it out is underway," he added.
He apprehended that the death toll likely to increase as some more people are feared trapped.
Meanwhile, at least four to five rescued people are stated to be in a critical condition at hospital, officials told IANS.
Amid rescue operations, the police also had to manage the crowd, especially whose family members fell into the well and were frantic.
Police used ropes to take out the trapped people, however, water in the stepwell was yet another hindrance.
"Those fell into the deep well were severely injured and debris made the water muddy. One little girl is still missing and search operation was underway," Madhya Pradesh Home Minister Narottam Mishra told the press in Bhopal.
He had said that 11 bodies have been recovered, while of the 19 people who were rescued, two died.
"Order has been given to probe the incident. This unfortunate incident has shaken the entire Madhya Pradesh," he said.
The toll rose later as another body was taken out of the stepwell.
Expressing her grief, President Murmu, in a tweet, said: "I am deeply saddened by the news of the death of many people in the accident in Indore. I express my deepest condolences to all the bereaved families and wish speedy recovery to the injured".
Prime Minister Modi, expressing his condolences on this tragic incident, also announced an ex-gratia of Rs 2 lakh each to the kin of those killed.
"Extremely pained by the mishap in Indore. Spoke to CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan 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. An ex-gratia of Rs. 2 lakh from PMNRF would be given to the next of kin of each deceased in the unfortunate tragedy in Indore today. The injured would be given Rs. 50,000," a tweet by the PMO said.
Chief Minister Chouhan announced that the state government will provide a compensation of Rs 5 lakh to the families of each deceased and Rs 50,000 for those injured in the incident.
"We are with the bereaved families in this hour of grief. Rs 5 lakh each will be given to the relatives of the deceased and Rs 50,000 each to the injured. Proper arrangements have been made for the treatment of the injured, and the entire medical expenses will be borne by the state government," he said.
Meanwhile, senior Congress leader and former Chief Minister Digvijaya Singh, who reached the spot, has demanded investigation in the matter. He also met some of the injured persons at the hospital.
"How this tragedy occurred needs to be thoroughly investigated. Who gave permission to make concrete slab on top of the stepwell?" he asked.