At least 42 people are feared killed in a bridge collapse in Maharashtra’s Raigad district, chief minister Devendra Fadnavis said on Thursday, even as rescuers battled a swollen Savitri river to fish out 11 bodies, one of them 150km downstream.
The British-era bridge on the Mumbai-Goa highway caved in on Tuesday night, sending two buses and other small vehicles plunging into the flooded river near Mahad town, about 170 km from Mumbai.
Fadvanis, who spoke on the disaster in assembly, gave details of the vehicles that went down and also announced a judicial probe into the incident.
Families of those killed will be assisted with the ex-gratia of Rs 5 lakh each, he said.
Transport minister Diwakar Raote announced either a government job to a family member of the deceased staff of the two MSRTC buses that were washed away or compensation of Rs 10 lakh each.
As the government came under opposition attack for the accident, said to be result of lack of the maintenance of the 88-year-old bridge, Fadnavis said a structural audit of old bridges will be completed at the earliest.
The collapsed bridge had surpassed its utility period but the Public Works Department (PWD) allowed it for vehicular traffic despite another bridge built parallel to the old one in 2000.
While the old bridge was used for traffic moving towards Mumbai, the new bridge was used by vehicles going towards Goa.
Raigad deputy collector Satish Vagal told Hindustan Times that the casualty estimate was based on information provided by family members of people missing since the accident.
Besides the four-wheelers, there were also reports of a couple of two and three-wheelers missing from the highway and feared drowned in the bridge collapse, he said.
Officials said before search operations were called off for the day, 11 bodies were recovered by personnel of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), Coast Guard, Navy and local fishermen, who are expert swimmers.
About 20 boats are involved in the operation with a Coast Guard helicopter scanning the river from the skies.
A 300-kg magnet was also lowered into the waters with the help of a crane to trace the missing buses, a state disaster management official said.
One body was found at Anjarle beach, about 150 km from the accident spot while another was found 70km away at Harihareshwar beach. Eight of the bodies have been identified.
Incessant rains in the catchment areas of Mahabaleshwar where the river originates made the rescue operations a tough task as the Savitri continued to be a raging torrent of muddy water.
A boat carrying four NDRF jawans capsized during the day though all the personnel managed to return to the bank.