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'Suddenly, Everyone Fell': Priest on Indore Temple Collapse That Left 35 Dead

MP Home Minister Narottam Mishra said that a probe has been ordered and people found guilty will face action.

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Lakshminarayan Sharma, the priest at Beleshwar Mahadev temple in Madhya Pradesh's Indore, was preparing for the afternoon aarti on Ram Navami, when the floor of the temple collapsed and devotees fell into the stepwell underneath it.

The shocking incident, on 30 March, has left at least 35 devotees dead and several still missing.

"We were preparing for the aarti when suddenly, everyone fell down. I knew how to swim so I came up. When I came to shore, 5-7 dead bodies were floating in the water," Sharma said.

According to media reports, there were at least a hundred devotees, but Sharma, who has been a priest at the temple since 2007, said that he has seen bigger crowds. Eyewitness accounts further claimed that it was "overload" that led to the collapse.

"On Shivratri, an even larger crowd comes to the temple. But this time, the havan, which always happens outside the temple, was being done inside because a new temple is being built," Sharma said.
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What Happened?

MP Home Minister Narottam Mishra has ordered a probe into the incident.

"It was an old stepwell which was covered. 19 people have been rescued alive…one or two rescued people are said to be critical. Because the water is muddy (as the debris got mixed with the shallow water), efforts are on to rescue the children who had gone missing…whoever is found guilty in the probe will face action," Narottam Mishra had said on Thursday evening.

BJP's national general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya, who was also among the devotees at the temple, told media that the temple has been in its expanded form for over four decades, and that many visitors were likely to be unaware that a stepwell existed beneath the floor of the temple.

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Leaders Across Parties Offer Condolences, Compensation Announced

President Droupadi Murmu, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan, Congress Madhya Pradesh President Kamal Nath, and leaders across political parties offered their condolences in light of the incident.

"Extremely pained by the mishap in Indore. Spoke to CM @ChouhanShivraj Ji 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," tweeted PM Narendra Modi.

"Due to the heavy load on the stepwell, it sank. I have given instructions to investigate the incident. In this unfortunate incident, the government with full sensitivity stands with all the families whom we could not save. The government will provide ₹ 5 lakh (ex-gratia) to the relatives of the deceased and ₹ 50 thousand to the injured," CM Shivraj Singh Chauhan added.

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