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Last Updated: Friday, 23 January, 2004, 16:57 GMT
Scores die in India wedding blaze
Police with bodies recovered from the wedding fire
Police believe an electrical short-circuit was the cause
At least 46 people including the bridegroom have been killed in a fire at a wedding hall in southern India.

Twenty women and four children were among those killed in the blaze in the Trichy district of Tamil Nadu state.

The blaze may have been caused by a spark from a ceremonial fire or an electrical short-circuit.

Flames spread rapidly through the hall, which was decorated with palm fronds and had a thatched roof. Reports said the venue was overcrowded.

About 50 people were being treated in hospital, at least 14 with serious injuries, police said.

The heavy silk saris worn by the women and the costumes of the children quickly caught fire
Local resident

Police commissioner for Tiruchirapalli district, Sunil Kumar Singh, feared the death toll might rise.

He said police believed the cause of the fire was an electrical short-circuit.

But some witnesses said the blaze started from a fire that the bride and groom traditionally walk around seven times to solemnise their vows.

Many guests were trapped in the rush for the narrow staircase that led to the exit of the upper-floor venue.

Some died in the stampede and some from smoke inhalation.

Bride escapes

"There was suffocating and blinding smoke and a pungent smell which delayed rescue operations," said watchman Raju Pillai.

One resident said the ceremony had been moved upstairs to accommodate the large number of guests.

Map of Tamil Nadu, showing location of Trichy

"The heavy silk saris worn by the women and the costumes of the children quickly caught fire. They had little chance of climbing down the narrow stairs to escape," the resident said.

The bride escaped. Her condition was not known, but 38 others have been admitted to hospital with serious injuries.

The fire happened in Srirangam, a town known for its Hindu temples about 320 kilometres (200 miles) south of the state capital Madras.

The ceremony was taking place just 100 metres from the town's famous 10th century Sri Ranganathaswamy temple.

It was being held in the early hours of Friday because the time was considered auspicious according to the Hindu calendar.

More than 300 guests had gathered for the celebration in a space meant for 100 people, authorities say.

The chief minister of Tamil Nadu, J. Jayalalitha, said compensation payments of 50,000 rupees ($1,100) would be granted to the families of the dead.


WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Nick Bryant
"A lot of the guests all tried to go down a corridor, where there was clearly a crush"



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Country Profile: India
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