Nepal expresses sorrow at church collapse deaths


Kathmandu : Reacting quickly to the death of 23 Christians in a church collapse in eastern Nepal Wednesday, Nepal’s Communist-led government expressed sorrow over the incident and wished for the speedy recovery of the more than five dozen people injured.

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Though engaged in the last-day celebration of the Hindu Dashain festival and simultaneously holding talks with the major parties to end the ongoing blockade of parliament by former Maoist guerrillas, Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal said he was “grieved and stunned” to hear about the tragedy in Dharan town in Sunsari district.

Nepal, who had been among the first to visit the injured after an explosion in a Catholic church in Nepal that killed three people earlier this year, issued a statement expressing regret on behalf of his coalition government and offering condolences to the families of those killed.

Twenty-three people, mostly women, were crushed to death after an international get-together that started Monday at the Zion Prayer Hall run by the El Shaddai sect turned into a tragedy Wednesday morning.

The victims were sleeping when the three-storey bamboo structure built to accommodate hundreds of visitors from Nepal and India collapsed around 12.30 a.m.

“We have recovered 23 bodies, while 63 people have been hurt and have been admitted to hospital,” police official Raj Kumar Pandey told IANS. The dead included 17 women and four boys and girls.

A woman from India’s West Bengal state was among those killed. She was identified as Nika Rai, a 35-year-old from Siliguri town. Two Indians were injured — Karma Chodin and Sarada Rai — both from Sikkim.

Nearly 2,000 people had assembled for the convention and about 1,200 were accommodated in the makeshift building.

Rescue efforts were initially hampered as all government offices are closed till Wednesday in Nepal to celebrate Dashain, the biggest Hindu festival in the nascent republic.

Nepal, once a Hindu kingdom, became secular three years ago.

The El Shaddai sect was founded by Bhakt Singh, a Punjab boy who went abroad to study engineering and became a convert though initially, according to his own admission, he was both anti-Christian and anti-Muslim.

Singh passed away in Chennai about three years ago but the sect he founded flourishes in Nepal with several churches, including in Kathmandu. Most of its followers are from the Indian and British armies.