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14 Killed, 50 Injured as Tent Collapses at Religious Event in Rajasthan; CM Announces Rs 5 Lakh Compensation

A 'Ram Katha' was organised at Jasol area of the district when the tent was uprooted by strong winds, trapping the people sitting under it.

News18.com

Updated:June 24, 2019, 8:33 AM IST
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Barmer: At least 14 people were killed and about 50 injured after a pandal fell on them due to strong winds during a religious programme in Barmer district of Rajasthan on Sunday, police said.

A 'Ram Katha' was organised at Jasol area of the district when the pandal was uprooted by strong winds trapping the people sitting under it, Additional Superintendent of Police, Khinv Singh, said.

"At least 14 persons, including three women, have died in the incident and about 50 are injured. Reasons of the deaths will be clear after postmortem," said Balotara Additional Superintendent of Police Ratan Lal Bhargava.

"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 pm. Most participants were senior citizens," said District Collector Himanshu Gupta.

Those injured have been admitted to different government and private hospitals in Barmer and neighbouring Jodhpur district.

Another police officer said information about 39 injured persons was available and officials were working to gather details of the others. Those killed have been identified as Sundar Devi, Nainu Devi, Narangi Devi, Keval Das, Pemaram, Sanwaldas, Ramesh Kumar, Devilal, Jabbar Singh, Champalal, Indra Singh, Jitendra, Avinash and Maal Singh.

Most of the deceased were from different villages of the Barmer district, including the Jalsol village, which is about 460 km from state capital Jaipur.

There were also reports of many people getting electrocuted after an electric wire fell to the ground. "The breaking of the wire in the rain led to a stampede in which many people were electrocuted," said an eyewitness.

Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot took stock of the situation from Jaipur and directed Jodhpur Divisional Commissioner BL Kothari to investigate the incident.

Gehlot said rescue operations were being done by the district administration. He also announced Rs 5 lakh in compensation each to the next of the kin of those who lost their lives and Rs 2 lakh for those injured.

Union Minister of State for Agriculture and Farmer Welfare Kailash Chaudhary cancelled his Ranchi tour and left for Barmer to monitor the situation. Kothari and Jodhpur Range Inspector General Sachin Mitta has been directed to visit the accident site.

Eyewitnesses claimed that the tent got uprooted due to the winds and hovered for a few seconds in the air before collapsing.

Murlidhar Maharaj, who was leading the 'Ram Katha', stopped midway and asked people to leave as the pandal started to collapse. He scurried from the stage within seconds as the structure came down, 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 till June 30.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah also condoled the loss of lives.

Former Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje said in a tweet, "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."

Congress President Rahul Gandhi and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee also expressed their condolences.

(With inputs from agencies)

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