Seven pilgrims died and nine others were injured, two of them seriously, after a giant boulder rolled down a mountain and hit a multi-storey building of a popular Sikh shrine at Manikaran in Himachal Pradesh’s Kullu district Tuesday afternoon. Officials, however, reported that the main gurdwara was not damaged in the tragedy.
Kullu Deputy Commissioner Rakesh Kanwar said the injured, all from Punjab, were admitted to the local government hospital, while efforts were underway to identify those killed.
The rescue operation, which was undertaken immediately with the help of locals and Sikh devotees, was over by evening.
“The SSB personnel, police officials and home guards claim that there may not be more bodies under the debris. All the damaged rooms have been cleared of the debris to extricate bodies and save the injured,” Kanwar said.
As some bodies were mutilated beyond recognition, officials were using sarai bhavan (community shelter home) records to identify them. Meanwhile, relatives of those injured in the tragedy were informed about the accident.
The tragedy occurred at 2 pm after a boulder came rolling down the mountain and smashed several floors. The casualties would have been higher had the tragedy occurred at night when most rooms are occupied.
Local residents blamed the gurdwara management for the tragedy, saying they had constructed the building after cutting rocks and without ensuring any structural safety. The gurdwara, which attracts thousands of pilgrims from Punjab, Haryana and J&K, is considered one of the busiest shrines in Himachal Pradesh. Most victims of the tragedy were young men between 15-35 years of age.
Few years back, a massive flash flood had caused extensive damage to the gurdwara, which was rebuilt later.