MORBI: At least 141 people have died after a British-era bridge in Gujarat's Morbi collapsed last night. Some 177 people have been saved and teams are searching for several others who are still missing, report agencies.
Authorities said around 500 people, including women and children, were celebrating the last day of the Diwali festival on and around the nearly 150-year-old suspension bridge in Morbi when the cables supporting it snapped, sending people crashing into the river below.
CCTV footage showed the structure in the western state of Gujarat swaying -- with a few people apparently deliberately rocking it -- before it suddenly gave way.
The walkway and one fence crashed into the river, leaving the other side dangling in mid-air and hundreds of people in the water.
People fell on top of each other after the bridge snapped. Videos showed many desperately clinging to the remains of the bridge while some were seen swimming to safety.
The bridge over Machchhu river had been shut for seven months for repairs. It was reopened to the public on October 26, the Gujarati New Year, without a fitness certificate from the civic authorities.
"Renovation happened last week. We are also shocked. We are looking into the matter... The government takes responsibility for this tragedy," Brijesh Merja, Gujarat's minister for Labour and Employment, told NDTV in an exclusive interview. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is in Gujarat, said rescue and relief operations have been going on since Sunday and the centre is extending all help to the state. He will visit Morbi today (Tuesday).
"A case has been registered under charges of culpable homicide not amounting to murder and intentional act causing death against whoever is found responsible," he said.
Meanwhile, police arrested 9 people after filing FIR under avrious sections of IPC. Ashok Yadav, IG, Rajkot range said, “The arrested includes the managers of Oreva company and ticket clerks.”
One local MP, Kalyanji Kundariya, told media he had lost 12 family members in the accident, including five children.
The bridge over the Machchhu river, a popular tourist spot, had only reopened several days earlier for the local Gujarati New Year holiday after months of repairs.
Authorities launched a rescue operation following the collapse, with boats and divers searching the river all night and on Monday morning.
P. Dekavadiya, the head of police in Morbi, told AFP that more than 130 survivors had been rescued.
The suspension bridge, 233 metres (764 feet) long and 1.5 metres wide, was inaugurated in 1880 by the British colonial authorities and made with materials shipped from England, reports said.
The Gujarat tourist department describes the grand suspension bridge some 200 kilometres (120 miles) west of the state's main city, Ahmedabad, as an artistic and technological marvel.
Sandeepsinh Jhala, Morbi municipality chief officer, said that after the recent renovation the bridge had not been issued with a safety certificate.
District police have launched an enquiry against the contractor, Yadav said.
Reports said the work had been carried out by a unit of the Gujarat-based Oreva group, which describes itself as the world's largest clock manufacturer, and also makes lighting products and e-bikes. It could not immediately be reached for comment.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was touring Gujarat, his home state, said that he may rarely have experienced so much pain in my life.
Moscow and New Delhi have enjoyed close relations for decades and the Kremlin said in a statement that Russian President Vladimir Putin sent his condolences.
Accidents from old and poorly maintained infrastructure including bridges are common in India.
In 2016 the collapse of a flyover onto a busy street in Kolkata killed at least 26 people. Five years earlier at least 32 people perished when a packed bridge collapsed in the hill resort of Darjeeling.