At least 16 people died of electrocution and nearly 50 others were injured when a pandal collapsed due to strong winds during ‘Ram Katha’ at Rajasthan’s Barmer village on Sunday afternoon, police officials said.
“As many as 16 people, including two women and a 15-year-old kid, died when a gale hit the tents in Jasol village where the katha was being organised. The collapsing pandal damaged electricity wires, which electrocuted several listeners,” Inspector General, Jodhpur Range, Sachin Mittal said.
Mittal said 25 people were undergoing treatment in Balotra. “At least 16 people have died in the incident and about 50 are injured. Reasons of the deaths will be clear after postmortem,” Additional Superintendent of Police, Balotara, Ratan Lal Bhargava said.
The incident took place in Jasol village in Barmer’s Balotra. The katha was organised by Rani Bhatiyani Temple in the village, and a large number of people had come to listen to ‘Katha vachak’ Murlidhar Maharaj.
In one of the videos of the incident, Murlidhar Maharaj can be seen looking around while reciting the katha as the pandal swerves around him. The video shows him stoppiung and remarking, “The wind is strong…will have to stop the katha.” As a part of the pandal uprooted, which was not captured by the video, Murlidhar said, “Bahut tez hai, pandal udd raha hai. Log khali kar dijye, nikaliye bahar sabhi (The wind is strong and the pandal is flying off. Please vacate the pandal).”
Within seconds, Murlidhar left his place and the pandal collapsed behind him, the video shows. No immediate information was available about his condition.
A local shopkeeper said residents who rushed to rescue the victims felt current flowing in the structure of the pandal. They rescued those trapped inside and took them to hospitals in private vehicles and mini-vans, he said.
Expressing his condolence, Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted, “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.”
Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot expressed his grief over the deaths and announced an ex-gratia of Rs 5 lakh to kin of each of the deceased, and up to Rs 2 lakh to the injured. He also directed Jodhpur’s Divisional Commissioner, B L Kothari, to probe into the incident.
Gehlot tweeted that the local administration was carrying out relief work.
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.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah tweeted: “Pained to know about the loss of lives due to collapse of a Pandaal in Barmer, Rajasthan. I express my deepest condolences to the bereaved families. May the injured recover quickly.”
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee also condoled the deaths and tweeted, “Saddened at the deaths after the tent collapse in Barmer, Rajasthan. My condolences to the grieving families. Our prayers that the injured recover quickly.”