Madhya Pradesh: At least 35 die after collapse at Indian temple

People stand around a structure built over an old temple well that collapsed in Indore, India. Credit: AP

At least 35 people were killed after the roof of a stepwell in a temple complex collapsed in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh.

Worshippers who had gathered to celebrate the Hindu festival of Ram Navami on Thursday were crushed, officials said, with around 16 people left injured after the incident.

Dozens of people fell into the water when the structure over the well collapsed and were covered by falling debris, Police Commissioner Makrand Deoskar said.

Kantibhai Patel, president of a residents' association, told reporters that authorities were slow to react and the first ambulance reached the site an hour after the initial alert.

The incident took place during a prayer ceremony organised at Beleshwar Mahadev Jhulelal temple, according to reports.

An accident victim is carried towards a waiting ambulance in Indore, India. Credit: AP

"We have so far recovered 35 bodies and the rescue operation is continuing," Ilayaraja T, a district administrator, said.

The state's top elected official, Shivraj Singh Chauhan, has ordered an investigation and has confirmed that 33 of the bodies have been identified, with one person left unaccounted for.

In a tweet, India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi said: "Extremely pained by the mishap in Indore. Spoke to Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and took an update on the situation.

"The State Government is spearheading rescue and relief work at a quick pace. My prayers are with all those affected and their families."

Temple authorities had stopped using the well years ago and covered the mouth with iron grills and tiles.

But officials said the slab covering the stepwell - large wells or reservoirs with steps that descend to the water level - collapsed on Thursday because of the crowd and extra load on it.

Building collapses are common in India because of poor construction and a failure by many to comply with regulations.

In October, a century-old cable suspension bridge collapsed into a river in the western state of Gujarat, sending hundreds of people plunging into the water and killing at least 132 in one of the worst accidents in the country in the past decade.

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