Twenty-three people, most of whom were attending a funeral, were killed and 15 injured when the roof of a shelter at a cremation ground in the city of Ghaziabad on the outskirts of New Delhi collapsed on Sunday, police said.
Several of the casualties were not attending the funeral but taking shelter from heavy rain under the recently constructed structure.
The dead, all of them men, were mostly relatives or neighbours of the man being cremated at that time of the collapse, officials said.
A National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) unit arrived at the scene and pulled out the dead and injured from the debris.
Rescue workers then sifted through the building’s rubble for hours to ensure that more victims were not trapped there.
Apart from the 23 dead, 15 others were admitted to different hospitals, Ghaziabad Superintendent of Police Iraj Raja said. “They took shelter under the newly constructed structure, which could not bear the rain and collapsed, leaving these persons dead.”
At least 18 of the bodies had been identified by the evening.
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.
Local media reported that 38 people were rescued, while at least 15 were injured and taken to hospital, according to the Press Trust of India.
Local police officer Mahipal Singh told AFP that the cremation had been for an elderly individual who was not a Covid-19 victim.
Building collapses are frequent in India. Many firms use cheap materials and bribe officials to evade regulations, while on-site safety is lax.