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10 Killed in India Temple Accidents

August 31, 2002

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NEW DELHI, India (AP) _ Five children about to enact a musical drama died Saturday in a temple fire during a Hindu festival. Across the country, five more people were crushed to death at another temple when a truck hit an archway that collapsed on them.

In New Delhi, police said three girls and two boys died when flames raged through a wooden stage as they were about to begin a musical drama on the life of Krishna, Hinduism’s most colorful and one of its most popular deities. Millions of Hindus across India observed Krishna’s birthday on Saturday with music and festivity.

``There is a hall on the first floor where the children were just about to start the drama. The hall is poorly ventilated. Though the children sustained burns, it is possible they died due to asphyxiation,″ said Deputy Commissioner of Police Deependra Pathak.

With no adults to assist them, the children were soon trapped, he said. The children ranged between ages 5 to 12. Eight other children who were also on the stage managed to escape, police said.

Across the country in the southern city of Hyderabad, a 2-year-old boy, a woman, and three men were killed and seven injured when a truck carrying construction workers hit the main arch of the city’s Mysigandi Temple. The victims were crushed as the arch collapsed on them, Press Trust of India reported.

The fire in New Delhi was apparently started by an electrical short circuit, an officer at the police control room said on condition of anonymity. Two of the victims were sisters, and their father suffered burns as he tried to save them, he said.

Hundreds of people had gathered at a ceremony with dazzling lights and loud music where the children were to perform the playful and flirtatious antics of Krishna, a cowherd’s son. Hindu folklore and religious poetry describe the flute-playing Krishna as stealing butter from clay pitchers hanging in neighbor’s homes and flirting with girls of his village.

Many enraged residents of the area assaulted police officers for their alleged failure to save the children and enforce fire safety rules.

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