Rescue workers attempt to reach victims of the crematorium roof collapse in Muradnagar in India's Uttar Pradesh state on Jan. 3. (Photo: YouTube)
Church and political leaders in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh are mourning the deaths of 25 people killed when the roof of a shelter at a cremation ground collapsed.
More than 40 people had assembled in Muradnagar town in Ghaziabad district on Jan. 3 to perform the last rites for Ram Dhan at the crematorium when it started raining. Dhan’s relatives and friends took shelter from the rain when the roof collapsed.
Ghaziabad superintendent of police Iraj Raja said 25 attending the funeral were killed and 15 others were injured.
“Very unfortunate things happen due to the carelessness of some people. Whatever may be the reason, we have lost the lives of many innocent people, which is very heartbreaking,” Father John Felix, head of Mother Mary Malankara Church in Ghaziabad, told UCA News.
“The state's chief minister, Yogi Adityanath, and his administration have taken quick action and even the compensation has been announced, but sadly the wound of losing dear and near ones remains.
“Let the government come up with the fast and accurate information about the people who are responsible for this tragic event. Our condolences are with the bereaved families.”
According to media reports, Dhan, a resident of Dayanand Colony, died due to illness on Jan. 2 and his friends, relatives and residents numbering around 100 assembled for the funeral.
During the ceremony, the priest called for all present to say a final prayer. As the prayer was recited, the land on one side subsided, causing the wall to collapse on those present.
More than 40 people were initially trapped under the debris. Police rescued the injured who were admitted to Ghaziabad District Hospital.
Initial reports said 15 people died on the spot while 10 others succumbed in hospital.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, President Ram Nath Kovind, Vice President M. Venkaiah Naidu and several political party leaders including Adityanath expressed grief over the deaths.
"My condolences to the families of the deceased. I pray that those hurt in this accident get well soon. Local administration is working for relief & assistance," Kovind said in a tweet.
Naidu tweeted: "Pained by the loss of lives in a roof collapse at Ghaziabad's Muradnagar cremation ground. My heartfelt condolences to the bereaved families and prayers for the speedy recovery of the injured."
"The sad news of the unfortunate accident in Muradnagar, Uttar Pradesh, has caused great sorrow. The state government is engaged in relief and rescue work. I express my condolences to the relatives of those who lost their lives in this accident as well as wish the injured to get well soon," Modi tweeted.
Adityanath has directed officials to give financial assistance of 200,000 rupees (US$2,740) to the kin of each of the deceased.
According to Livehindustan, the cremation ground structure was not very old and it was constructed in an area prone to waterlogging.
Heavy rain in the area over the last few days could have weakened the soil, the report said.
Hindus form 80 percent of Uttar Pradesh’s population of 200 million people. Christians are a negligible minority in the state.