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36 Bodies Pulled From Water at Temple in India After Floor Covering Well Collapses During Fire Ritual

Worshipers had reportedly gathered at the temple for the Hindu festival of Ram Navami when a part of the floor covering the well collapsed, causing victims and debris to fall into the water below

Uncredited/AP/Shutterstock
Uncredited/AP/Shutterstock

At least 36 people have died in India after falling into a stepwell at a Hindu temple, per multiple reports.

A floor covering at the temple complex in the city of Indore collapsed on Thursday, causing several people to fall into the hole, according to CNN and The Guardian.

The worshipers had gathered at the temple for the Hindu festival of Ram Navami, The Guardian and Reuters reported.

Witnesses said the worshipers had gathered for a fire ritual, according to the Associated Press.

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Officials said 36 bodies were pulled from the well, per the reports. At least 16 people were injured, as well.

About 80 people were inside the building at the time of the collapse, according to the Reuters report.

Uncredited/AP/Shutterstock
Uncredited/AP/Shutterstock

Among the dead is the secretary of the temple's board, municipal corporation commissioner Pawan Kumar Sharma told the AP. The temple's president is among the injured, he added.

"The major cause of deaths could be drowning," Ilayaraja T, a top local government official, told Reuters.

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Madhya Pradesh state chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan said the floor collapsed "due to the heavy load" it was holding up, according to CNN.

Home Minister Narottam Mishra said water was pumped out of the well in hopes of aiding rescuers, per the report.

The well held water that was about 25 feet deep at the time of the incident, according to The Guardian.

Uncredited/AP/Shutterstock
Uncredited/AP/Shutterstock

Rescuers' response to the incident was reportedly slow. Kantibhai Patel, president of a residents' association, said the first ambulance did not arrive until an hour after authorities were first alerted to the incident, per the AP's report.

Footage from the scene showed emergency crews using ropes and ladders to reach the victims.

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One witness said they "saw some people falling with their hands still folded in prayer," The Guardian reported.

An investigation into the collapse is ongoing.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi offered his condolences to those impacted by Thursday's tragedy, according to CNN and Reuters.

"The State Government is spearheading rescue and relief work at a quick pace," he said, per CNN's report.

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