Rescuers discovered nine more bodies yesterday beneath the ruins of a hotel, bringing the known death toll from an explosion which tore through a wedding party to 18, an official said.
A gas cylinder exploded late Friday at the hotel in the town of Beawar, in Rajasthan, reducing the venue to ruins and sparking a huge fire.
By Saturday evening officials said nine bodies had been found. But the figure rose sharply yesterday as rescue teams, aided by the army, found nine more victims including women and children under rubble.
“So far 18 bodies have been recovered,” said Gaurav Goyal, a senior administrative official in Ajmer, the district where the blast occurred, about 200km from the state capital Jaipur.
“Five seriously injured people, with severe burn injuries, are being treated in hospital,” he said.
Recovery teams were sifting through mangled heaps of concrete and steel, removing victims on stretchers covered with white sheets.
The blast all but levelled the three-storey hotel where a wedding was underway.
Eyewitnesses said the explosion occurred as a chef tried to refill a cooking canister.
The 19 dead included three children – Lakshat, 1, his brother Kartavya, 2, and Khushi Devda, 2.
Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje visited survivors in hospital late Saturday and announced compensation of Rs200,000 each for the families of the dead.
“The cylinder blast at the wedding ceremony at Beawar is nothing less than a nightmare,” she said on Twitter.
Ajmer Collector Gaurav Goyal has asked officials to deal strictly with those found filling cylinders illegally.
Domestic gas cylinder explosions are common in India, where safety standards are relatively poor. Reports of fatal accidents from cylinder blasts are frequent but mass casualties are unusual.
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