A sudden squall in Rajasthan’s border district of Barmer led to the death of 14 and injured over 50 people on Sunday afternoon, an official said.
The victims were part of a crowd of over 1,000 people who had gathered in a large tent to listen to Murlidhar Maharaj’s preaching of ‘Ram Katha’ at Barmer’s Jasol village, Barmer Sub-Divisional Magistrate Rohit Kumar said. They were electrocuted when the squall caused a short circuit.
Police said 60 people were wounded in the incident and that the death toll could jump. Some eyewitnesses at the gathering said the short circuit had created a panic among the audience and led to a stampede. The area witnessed a spell of heavy rain and gusty winds on Sunday.
Meanwhile, Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot condoled the deaths, and ordered inquiry into the incident. He also announced compensation of Rs 5 lakh to the families of those killed in the incident, and Rs 2 lakh to the wounded.
जसोल,बाड़मेर में राम कथा के दौरान टेंट गिरने से हुए हादसे में बड़ी संख्या में लोगों की जान जाने की जानकारी अत्यंत दुखद, दुर्भाग्यपूर्ण है।ईश्वर से दिवंगतों की आत्मा को शांति प्रदान करने,शोकाकुल परिजनों को सम्बल देने की प्रार्थना है। घायलों के शीघ्र स्वास्थ्य लाभ की कामना करता हूँ
— Ashok Gehlot (@ashokgehlot51) June 23, 2019
“Collapse of a ‘Pandaal’ in Rajasthan’s Barmer is unfortunate. My thoughts are with the bereaved families and I wish the injured a quick recovery,” PMO’s tweet read. With agencies
Collapse of a ‘Pandaal’ in Rajasthan’s Barmer is unfortunate. My thoughts are with the bereaved families and I wish the injured a quick recovery: PM @narendramodi
— PMO India (@PMOIndia) June 23, 2019
Disaster management and relief minister Bhanwar Lal Meghwal blamed the organisers for the tragedy. “There was negligence by the organisers. When they knew that weather has changed, rainfall and dust storm has started then why they did not they get the electricity supply switched off. The action would be taken against those responsible,” he said.
In a purported video circulating on social media, Murlidhar Maharaj, who was reciting the Ram Katha, is seen running for cover when the tent began to shake. He is also seen telling his listeners to leave the tent.