Ghaziabad (UP): Twenty-four people, most of them attending a funeral, were killed and 17 others injured when the roof of a shelter at a cremation ground in Uttar Pradesh's Muradnagar collapsed on Sunday, officials said.
Several people had taken shelter under the recently constructed structure while it rained. The dead, all of them men, were mostly relatives or neighbours of Jai Ram, who was being cremated at that time, officials said.
Rescue workers sifted through the building's rubble for hours to ensure that more victims were not trapped there.
The local people were the first to arrive at the cremation ground in Muradnagar's Ukhlarsi village in Ghaziabad district, adjoining the national capital.
Police followed by a National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) unit also then reached the spot, pulling out the dead and the injured from the debris.
"As many as 24 people have died and 17 others have been injured in the incident," District Magistrate Ajay Shankar Pandey said. At least 18 of them had been identified by the evening.
Jaiveer Singh (50), hailing from Uttar Pradesh's Meerut, who was attending the funeral of his brother's father-in-law, was among those killed in the incident.
His brother Umesh Kumar said, "It took us one-and-a-half hours to rescue him. The administration used a crane to get the bodies out. Jaiveer was talking to me all this while. But he couldn't make it and was declared dead."
While some complained of the lack of facilities at the hospital and accused the local administration of callous attitude in dealing with the incident, others demanded that the contractor responsible for the construction of the shelter at the cremation ground be arrested.
"This shelter was built just a month or two ago. It collapsed following the first rain. The contractor should be put behind the bar immediately," said another relative of Jaiveer.
In the evening, contractor Ajay Tyagi, executive officer of the municipality Niharika Singh, junior engineer Chandra Pal and supervisor Ashis were booked under relevant sections of the IPC, including 304 (causing death by negligence) on the complaint of a deceased's son at the Muradnagar police station.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath expressed grief over the deaths.
"I express my condolences to the near and dear ones of those who lost their lives in this accident, and also hope for a quick recovery of the injured," Modi tweeted in Hindi.
Adityanath announced Rs 2 lakh as financial relief for the families of each man killed. The chief minister also directed Meerut's Divisional Commissioner and Additional Director General of the police zone to submit a report on the incident.
Union minister V K Singh, who is a Member of Parliament from Ghaziabad, and several senior police and administration officials visited the accident site. Uttar Pradesh Health Minister Atul Garg, who is the local BJP MLA, met some of the injured at the government hospital here.