Twenty-four hours after an ‘overloaded’ footbridge collapsed, local authorities in East Kameng district of Arunachal Pradesh are still not sure how many people were on it. But going by missing reports filed at the police control room in Seppa town, 16 people are yet to be traced.
The 50mt long rope-wire bridge that hung 40ft over river Kameng and connected Seppa with New Seppa townships snapped around 5:30pm on Saturday. Tribal people were trying to catch an insect called ‘tari’ – a local delicacy – with mosquito nets when the mishap happened. Some of the 30 survivors, many of them children, said there were more than 60 people on the bridge at that time.
Seppa, headquarters of East Kameng district, is 384km west of Arunachal Pradesh capital Itanagar and 320 km northeast from Assam capital Guwahati.
“Out of an estimated 60 people on the footbridge that collapsed, 30 were rescued till late (Saturday) night. We recovered the bodies of three young women while there are unconfirmed reports of a fourth body having been sighted,” East Kameng superintendent of police Kime Aya told HT on Sunday. “There could be many still missing, but 16 have been reported missing till now (6pm).”
Aya said local people were helping the police and Central Reserve Police Force personnel in search and rescue operations. “The army has also been assisting us, and they are using inflatable motorized boats (like most hill rivers, Kameng is fast-flowing and is freckled with rocks) to locate survivors or bodies downstream,” he added.
The Kameng meets the Brahmaputra in Assam further downstream.
A district administration official said of the 30 rescued, four were in a critical condition. The others were discharged from a local hospital after first aid. “We shall be probing how the footbridge collapsed, but preliminary investigations suggest too many people were on it at a time,” he said.
The official added, “Luckily, the footbridge had wire meshing on either side and most of the survivors had been caught in them. This prevented them from being washed away.”