Morbi bridge tragedy: Gujarat Government puts death toll at 132
The Gujarat Government, on Monday, confirmed the recovery of 132 dead bodies from the last night’s suspension bridge collapse tragedy at Morbi town in Gujarat. The unconfirmed reports, however, indicate the death-toll crossing 140 with many more missing.
The search is on for those missing, said a Government communique on Monday morning. Shocked Morbi town having a population of about 3 lakh, voluntarily shut its businesses in grief and solidarity of the victims.
“The rescue operation is in its last stage in the Machchhu river. It will be over soon,” Gujarat Minister of State for Home Harsh Sanghavi told reporters.
Total 170 people have been rescued from the site while 11 people were reported injured.
The State information department said that five teams of NDRF, six platoons of SDRF, a team of Air Force, two columns of Army, and two teams of Indian Navy apart from local rescue teams were involved in the operation that continued through the night.
The 142-year-old 754-feet long suspension bridge for pedestrians on Macchu river was named Jhulto Pul (swinging bridge) and was put under renovation. The rights to operate the bridge was given to a trust of Oreva Group – known for its Ajanta brand of wall clocks. Local officials informed that the Trust had given a contract for maintenance of the bridge to a local agency. A First Information Report (FIR) has been made of the incident at Morbi police station. However, the FIR mentions ‘bridge maintenance agency’ and ‘management agency’ as the accused in the incident without naming them. The FIR states that 250-300 people were on the bridge at the time of its collapse.
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Unconfirmed reports put the death toll at over 80.
The bridge was a tourist spot for the locals and people visiting from the nearby areas. The mishap happened in the evening at around 6.30 pm on Sunday. Due to the last day of the Diwali holidays, a large number of people had gathered at the river side.
Sanghavi told reporters at Morbi, around 300 km from the State capital, that the Government has formed a committee to probe the collapse.
Eyewitnesses said there were several women and children on the British era “hanging bridge” when it snapped, plunging them into the water below.
Some people were seen jumping on the bridge and pulling its big wires, an eyewitness said, adding the bridge may have collapsed due to the “huge crowd” on it.
After the collapse, all that remained of the bridge was part of the metal carriageway hanging down from one end into the dark water, its thick cables snapped in places.
At the local hospital people formed a human chain to hold back crowds and keep the road clear for ambulances which brought those rescued.
Sanghavi said a five-member high-powered committee has been formed to probe the bridge collapse. It includes Roads and Buildings department secretary Sandeep Vasava and four other senior officers.
An FIR was lodged in the bridge collapse under sections 304 (culpable homicide not amounting to murder), 308 (intentional act causing death) and 114 (abettor present when offence committed), against whoever is found responsible, Sanghavi said.
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Due to the Diwali vacation and being a Sunday, there was a rush of tourists on the bridge, a major tourist attraction.
A private operator had carried out the repair work of the bridge for nearly six months before it was reopened to the public on the Gujarati New Year Day on October 26.
It was opened to the public after the completion of the renovation work. But the local municipality had not yet issued any fitness certificate (after the renovation work), an official said.
Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel reached the accident site late in the night and also met those injured at the civil hospital.
The State government has announced a compensation of ₹4 lakh to the kin of the deceased and ₹50,000 for the injured.
The National Disaster Response Force rushed three teams to Morbi district.
Following the accident, Modi has cancelled his road show, scheduled to be held in Ahmedabad Monday ahead of the State Assembly polls, BJP sources said.
A “page committee sammelan”, scheduled to be held on Tuesday in Modi’s virtual presence, has been put off, they added.
Congress said its Parivartan Sankalp Yatra that was to be taken out from five zones across the State on Monday has been postponed by a day following the bridge collapse.