Convention Center Collapses, 23 Christians Killed

Kathmandu, Nepal, Oct.03, 2009 - A major Christian gathering in eastern Nepal ended in tragedy when the convention center collapsed.

At least 23 Christians died and 100 were injured when a bamboo structure housing participants collapsed in Dharan on Sept 29.

Around 1,800 Christians of the El Shaddai group had gathered for a 10-day convention that began on Sept 28. The gathering was organized by the Zion El Shaddai Church.

"A three-story makeshift bamboo structure where women and children had been housed in collapsed at 11:30 p.m. It is believed that the participants at the convention included people from Bhutan, and Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Siliguri in India.

Christians at this time of the year organize conventions to take advantage of the 15-day holiday for Dashain, a Hindu festival.

According to Protestant pastor Laxmi Prasad Neupaney, members of Protestant Churches usually gather at this time of the year to "renew their faith."

"Christians belonging to the El Shaddai community from all areas in east and west Nepal and some from Kathmandu had gathered for the important convention in Dharan.

"Such conventions are important as representatives from all member churches, spread across regions, gather and share their experiences and annual reports and make plans for the future.

Loreto Sister Sushila Kerketta, who is also based in Dharan, said the injured have been rushed to a hospital.

"Almost all the dead were among those sleeping on the ground floor and they included women and children," said Sister Kerketta, who also helped with the rescue work.

According to media reports, at least 1,500 participants were sleeping in the bamboo structure when it collapsed. The injured are being treated at the BP Koirala Institute of Health Sciences in Dharan.

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