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10 Die When Giant Statue of Buddha Slides Off Barge

March 10, 1990 GMT

NEW DELHI, India (AP) _ At least 10 people drowned today when a mammoth stone statue of Lord Buddha slid off a barge in a lake at the central Indian city of Hyderabad, United News of India said.

About 50 people were aboard the barge at the time of the accident, which the news agency said. Many of them managed to swim to shore, about 300 feet away, it added.

United News quoted witnesses and a survivor as saying the giant statue slid off its trailer and the barge broke up.

The news agency quoted Hyderabad Police Commissioner Prabhakar Rao as saying some bodies may have been trapped under the 350-ton red granite statue, which sank in 80 feet of water in Hussain Sagar Lake.

Navy divers were dispatched to Hyderabad, 745 miles southeast of New Delhi, to assist in search and salvage operations.

The barge was being towed to a rock in the center of the lake, where the statue was to be installed. Those aboard were construction company workers in charge of moving the statue.

About 130 sculptors worked on the statue, which cost $3.5 million to make, United News said. It was to have been unveiled at a ceremony May 9 as part of a beautification project at the lake.

Hyderabad, the capital of Andhra Pradesh state, was a major Buddhist center in the time of King Ashoka in the 3rd century B.C. before the Hindu and Moslem conquests.