Page last updated at 13:38 GMT, Wednesday, 30 September 2009 14:38 UK

Nepal church collapse kills many

Sangmaya Tamang mourns the death of her daughter Kumari Tamang
Distraught relatives searched in vain for their loved ones

At least 23 people are reported to have died when a makeshift church dormitory collapsed in eastern Nepal.

At least another 60 people were injured in the incident, in the town of Dharan, about 400km (240 miles) south-east of the capital, Kathmandu.

Police official Arjun Khadka told AP news agency that the victims had been staying in the building while they attended a Christian conference.

Nepal's home ministry said the bamboo structure had collapsed on top of them.

Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal said he was "deeply saddened" by the accident.

Building 'overloaded'

Ministry spokesman Ekmani Nepal told AFP news agency that 23 people had been killed instantly and about 60 were injured.


Some of the victims are believed to have been children.

Police inspector Mohan Bikram Dahal told AFP the victims were on the ground floor of the temporary dormitory preparing to go to sleep when the collapse happened.

He said the bamboo structure "could not withstand the weight of the people" inside.

More than 1,500 people are thought to have been inside the building at the time.

Many of the dead were women and children and at least one of the victims was from neighbouring India, police said.

PM 'saddened'

The El-Shaddai Church, an international Christian organisation based in India, was holding its annual convention in Dharan.

Bystanders gather after the collapse of the temporary structure
Little was left of the makeshift structure after the collapse

One of the organisers of the event, Devendra Limbu, told AFP most of the victims died from suffocation.

"I reached the site within five minutes of the building collapsing. I could hear women trapped under the debris crying and pleading for help," he said.

"We tried to pull the bamboo poles off them, but by the time we were able to reach them, 23 people had died."

Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal said he was "deeply saddened" by the accident, which came as Hindu-majority Nepal celebrates the Dashain festival - the biggest religious ceremony of the year.

"I express my heartfelt condolence to all those who were killed in the accident and wish a speedy recovery for all those injured," he said in a statement.

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