India fire kills five and injures dozens celebrating Durga Puja

About 150 people were inside pavilion that caught fire in Bhadohi area of Uttar Pradesh

Workers in Allahabad set up a tent for celebrations of the Hindu festival of Durga Puja. AFP
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At least five people, including three children, were killed and more than three dozen injured after a fire tore through a pavilion set up for celebrations of the Hindu festival of Durga Puja in northern India.

The fire, which broke out late on Sunday, was suspected to have been caused by a halogen light overheating, authorities said.

Artisans put finishing touches to statues of Hindu deities before they are sent out to customers for the Durga Puja festival.  AFP

About 150 people were inside the pavilion at the time of the incident in the Bhadohi area of Uttar Pradesh.

"A halogen light at the pandal overheated, following which an electric wire caught fire at multiple points simultaneously," said Gaurang Rathi, the district officer. Soon, the fire engulfed the wooden scaffolding and the tent."

A 45-year-old woman and a 10-year-old boy died on Sunday night, while two children and a woman died in hospital on Monday morning, Mr Rathi said.

Thousands of people visit “pandals” — elaborately decorated pavilions where idols of the goddess Durga are placed — during the annual festival, which is being celebrated from Saturday to Wednesday this year. The festival marks the deity’s victory over Mahisasur, a half-man, half-buffalo demon.

In neighbouring Madhya Pradesh state, Durga Puja celebrations turned into caste clashes during a song and dance performance in Kankar village.

Members of the Dalit community, the lowest rung in the Hindu caste hierarchy, claimed they were attacked by high-caste Hindus for setting up an idol of the goddess.

Television footage of the clashes showed men hitting each other with sticks, as well as some women hitting men.

Police said three people were arrested.

“There was a song-dance programme that led to a dispute which led to a fight,” said Naval Singh Sisodia, a senior police officer. "We have registered complaints from both sides and three people have been detained."

Updated: October 03, 2022, 8:50 AM
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