Jaipur: At least 14 people were killed and 26 others injured when a massive tent erected for people attending a religious gathering in Rajasthan’s Barmer (northern India) on Sunday collapsed as a storm hit the area, police said.
“Around 1,000 people had gathered under a tent to listen to Ram Katha in Jasol village of Balotra area, when a storm played havoc around 3.30 p.m. Most participants were senior citizens,” said District Collector Himanshu Gupta.
Balotra Sub-Inspector Khetaram Parmar told IANS: “Some 14 people have lost their lives, while 26 injured have been admitted to the district hospital.”
There are also claims that many of the victims were electrocuted after an electric wire broke in the storm and fell to the ground. An eyewitness said: “The breaking of the wire in the rain led to a stampede in which many people were electrocuted.”
Meanwhile, a video has also gone viral since the evening, in which Murlidhar, the man delivering the discourse, is seen asking people to evacuate the tent even as the structure crashes.
Parmar added that the number of injured was much higher as many people had been shifted to private hospitals by their families. However, their exact number was yet to be confirmed.
Union Minister of State for Agriculture and Farmer Welfare Kailash Chaudhary cancelled his Ranchi tour and left for Barmer to monitor the situation.
The state government has formed a five-member team, comprising senior officials, to look into the relief work. A compensation of Rs 5 lakh has also been announced for the families of each of the deceased, while every injured will get Rs 2 lakh.
Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot has directed Jodhpur Divisional Commissioner B.L. Kothari to investigate the tragedy.
Expressing anguish over the tragedy, Gehlot wrote on Twitter: “The loss of lives of so many people during Ram Katha in Jasol, Barmer is unfortunate and sad. I pray to God to bestow peace on the departed souls and strength to the bereaved families. I also wish quick recovery to the injured.”
“The local administration is engaged in rescue and relief work. The officials concerned have been asked to investigate the incident. They have also been asked to provide quick medical treatment to the injured and all help to the families of those affected,” he tweeted.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi also extended his condolences. “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,” he tweeted.
Congress President Rahul Gandhi also expressed his deep anguish at the loss of life, terming it “extremely sad and unfortunate”. In a tweet in Hindi, he prayed for peace for the departed souls, strength to their grieving families and hoped that the injured recover soon.
Former Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje tweeted: “Extremely sad to hear about the death of over dozen people in Jasol in Barmer who were listening to Ram Katha. I pray to God for the departed soul and to give patience to the grief-stricken families.”