At least 14 people were killed on Thursday when a well cover collapsed inside a packed temple in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh leading several to fall into the well, local officials said.
Rescue workers were trying to help at least 16 others who were trapped and injured inside the well, a stair-lined communal water source at the edge of the Shri Bileshwar Mahadev Jhulelal Temple in the city of Indore, according to the police commissioner, Makrand Deoskar. Water was being pumped out to help the process.
The temple, and many others all around India, was full of devotees celebrating the Hindu festival of Ram Navami, the birthday of Lord Ram.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi offered his condolences to families on Twitter, saying he was “extremely pained by the mishap in Indore.”
Video footage from the temple showed people using a ladder to reach people trapped in the well, half of which was covered with iron mesh. Police officers used temple microphones to clear crowds from the scene.
One witness, Prakash Patel, said he was entering the temple when he heard a loud sound and worshipers began running out and crying for help.
“Some people inside the well clung to an iron mesh, and many of those who died were women and children,” he said.
Narottam Mishra, the home minister of Madhya Pradesh state, said that the government had opened an investigation and that the families of those killed would be compensated.
The Ram Navami festival is marked by large Hindu street processions, and this year it fell during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Sectarian violence was reported on Thursday in several places, including West Bengal, Gujarat and Maharashtra states, as the worshipers clashed.