JAIPUR, India – A wall crashed down on an Indian wedding party during a storm killing at least 24 people including four children, police said Thursday, with one rescuer describing the scene as “horrific”.
Dozens more were injured when the 13-foot (four-metre) high concrete wall collapsed, trapping guests who had taken shelter from violent rain in a tin shack on Wednesday night, police superintendent Anil Tank told AFP.
“We worked through the night,” one rescue worker at the scene in Bharatpur, Rajasthan state, told India TV news network.
“We tried to rescue as many people as possible, the scene was horrific.”
Tank, a senior officer in Bharatpur, said 26 people were injured, 15 of them seriously. Television footage showed anxious relatives standing next to hospital beds.
Police have launched an investigation and detained a wedding hall manager on charges of causing death by negligence.
“We have registered a case and taken one of the managers of the banquet hall into custody,” district magistrate Narendra Kumar Gupta told reporters.
“We will investigate if the hall owners had a valid licence. In case they did not have a licence, appropriate action will be taken against them.”
Gupta also announced compensation of 50,000 rupees ($775) for the family of each person killed.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the incident had pained him “beyond words”.
“My thoughts are with the families of the deceased. I hope the injured recover soon,” he tweeted.
Indian weddings are often grandiose affairs with huge numbers of guests and lavish ceremonies that run for several days.
Many families pour their life savings into them, and it is not uncommon for affluent urban families to host thousands of guests.
In 2014 one guest was killed when a floating platform carrying the bride and groom that was suspended from the end of a crane collapsed onto a wedding party.
Disasters more often result from celebratory firing into the air, particularly in rural north India where gun ownership is widespread.
Last year, at least three people died in such incidents, and earlier this month a 12-year-old boy died of gunshot injuries sustained at a wedding in northern Uttar Pradesh state.
Rajasthan is one of India’s most arid states, but suffers frequent dust and rain storms during the hotter months.
A heatwave has swept across much of India in recent weeks, with temperatures reaching 44 degrees Celsius (111 degrees Fahrenheit) in the capital Delhi.
Building collapses are common in India, especially during the annual monsoon season.
A massive influx of people to cities in search of jobs and a shortage of low cost housing have fuelled the construction of illegal buildings across the country, often with sub-standard material.
Some 1,885 people died from the collapse of various structures in India in 2015, according to the National Crimes Record Bureau.-AFP