15 Killed, 70 Injured After Pandal In Rajasthan Collapses During Religious Programme

25 Jun 2019 7:28 AM GMT
15 Killed, 70 Injured After Pandal In Rajasthan Collapses During Religious Programme
Image Credit: Financial Express

At least 14 lost their lives and around 50 injured after a pandal collapsed on them due to strong winds and heavy rains in Barmer district of Rajasthan on June 23. The pandal was erected for a religious programme. The pandal was built for a ‘Ram Katha’ at a school ground near Rani Bhatiyani temple in Jasol village of the district.

What happened?

The police overseeing the matter said that the pandal was uprooted by strong winds, trapping the people sitting under it. Around hundreds of devotees were present at the venue. Ratan Lal Bhargava, Additional Superintendent of Police of Balotara, confirmed the death toll and said the reasons of deaths would only be confirmed once the postmortem report arrives.

However, several reports suggest people trapped under the tent might have got electrocuted due to generators present in the venue.

A shopkeeper who witnessed the collapse of the tent said that when the locals rushed to rescue, the victims felt current in the structure of the pandal. However, they managed to save people and sent them to hospitals in private vehicles. Injured were treated in private and government hospitals in Barmer and neighbouring Jodhpur district.

The 15 killed were from different villages of the district including villages as far as 460 km from the area.

Murlidhar Maharaj was heading the ‘Ram Katha’. A viral video shows him asking people to leave, as the pandal started wobbling. After advising people to leave, Maharaja left the venue as the structure came down resulting in a stampede-like situation.

The Ram Katha organised by Rani Bhatiyani Mandir Sansthan commenced on June 22 and was to continue till June 30.

Government’s reaction

BL Kothari, Jodhpur Divisional Commissioner, is heading the investigation of the accident. The state government has declared a compensation of Rs 5 lakh for the bereaved families and Rs 2 lakh for those who were injured.

Following the incident, politicians across the country expressed their grievances.

Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot met senior government officials in Jaipur to understand the situation. He also mentioned that the officials in the area are asked to provide proper relief works and treatment to those injured.

Union Minister of State for Agriculture Kailash Chaudhary said to media persons that he will leave for Barmer to meet the bereaved families. Union Home Minister, Amit Shah took to Twitter to express grief.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi also wrote on Twitter that the incident is ‘unfortunate’. He also wished that the injured to have a quick recovery.

Pandal/Tent Organisers Fail To Follow Safety Measures

The above incident is a harsh reminder of how organisers of such events do not pay heed to the safety protocols laid down by various civic bodies. Pandals and tents are often used in this country for social gatherings and many times these happy gatherings turn into mourning. In Delhi itself, three wedding tents caught fire risking around 1500 people’s lives. Failing to install proper fire safety equipment along with ill designs of the tent/pandal with only one exit have claimed many lives.

Several states have taken steps to avert tent/pandal fire. In 2014, the Patna district administration issued special advisory just before Durga puja to ensure the visitors did not face problem while pandal-hopping. The Patna Electric Supply was asked to check on every pandal, as many pandals were close to electric wires. In Delhi, the fire department reviewed each pandal and tent. The tent owners are asked to give an undertaking that they will observe the fire-safety norms which means, the owners have to put up a notice outside the tents declaring that have followed the guidelines. In a recent survey undertaken by the Delhi fire department, the officials found that most of the tents do not have staff trained to deal with fire accidents or the equipment to manage blazes.

Here are eight steps that the tent/pandal owners must take to prevent fire accident and avoid a stampede-like situation:

1. The organisers need to paint the entry and exit points clearly with bright colours to draw the attention of the worried guest.
2. The venue must have adequate open space for assembly around tents in case of any accidents
3. The organisers must avoid high-voltage installation or decoration on walls
4. Try to use non-inflammable materials in the venue.
5. Install first-aid and firefighting equipment in the area.
6. Have a water-storage facility in place inside a tent.
7. Make sure the pandal/tent is at a considerable distance then live electric wire.

Also Read: 20 Killed As Fire Engulfs Coaching Center In Surat

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