Gujarat bridge collapse: Morbi death toll rises to 133; rescue operations underway
At 6.40 pm on Sunday evening, the 765-metre-long suspended cable bridge snapped with 400-500 people on it, more than thrice its capacity, resulting in hundreds of people falling into the river
The death toll in the horrifying cable bridge collapse in Gujarat’s Morbi increased to 133 on Monday after the National Disaster Response Force and Indian Navy personnel fished out more bodies from the Machchhu river bed, state home minister Harsh Sanghavi informed.
Taking responsibility of the accident, Sanghavi said that those guilty will face strict punishment.
“Teams from the fire department, the state disaster response force and the police rushed to the site and rescued people within two to three hours. The NDRF, army and navy teams are trying to retrieve the bodies. Our people have been working all night. We have also started the process to register a criminal case,” he told reporters in Morbi.
At 6.40 pm on Sunday evening, the 765-metre-long suspended cable bridge snapped with 400-500 people on it, more than thrice its capacity, resulting in hundreds of people falling into the river. Most of the people had assembled there for Chhath Puja celebrations.
Around 210 people fell into the river, Sanghavi said, adding that many were rushed to the local hospital by 7 pm. The bridge was reopened after renovation on October 26 on the occasion of the Gujarati New Year.
A case under sections 304 and 308 of the Indian Penal Code has been registered and a five-member committee has been formed to unearth the lapses in repair and renovation of the bridge, Sanghavi said.
Gujarat chief minister Bhupendra Patel reached the spot late last night to take stock of the situation, and visited the district hospital where the injured are admitted. “He issued directions to expedite the rescue operations, and called officers from neighbouring districts [to assist],” Sanghavi said.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is in Gujarat on a three-day visit, spoke to the chief minister and sought “urgent mobilisation” of rescue teams.
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Local fishermen were the first to provide help with their boats. However, fading daylight affected their efforts, before the local administration provided additional lighting to aid the rescue operation.
“Many people came here in view of the Diwali holidays and weekend. The incident occurred probably because of the huge crowd on the bridge. When it collapsed, people fell over each other,” a witness said.
“The bridge suddenly collapsed and people at the centre of the bridge fell into the river,” a local resident, Supran said. “Some boys jumped on the bridge moments before it snapped.”
A political blame game ensued after the incident in Gujarat, which is heading to polls later this year.
Congress spokesperson Manish Doshi said the accident showed lackadaisical attitude of the Bharatiya Janata Party-led state government, while Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge appealed to party workers to assist the relief operations.
Aam Aadmi Party leader Atishi sought a detailed inquiry into the incident. “There should be a detailed inquiry into the safety aspects of the bridge. Action should be taken against those responsible for the accident,” she told reporters in New Delhi.
Condolences for the deceased poured in from across the country.
President Droupadi Murmu, in a tweet, said, “The tragedy in Morbi, Gujarat has left me worried. My thoughts and prayers are with the affected people. Relief and rescue efforts will bring succour to the victims.”
“Distressed to hear about the tragic incident in Morbi, Gujarat. I pray for the safe rescue of all and the speedy recovery of those injured. My thoughts are with the affected families,” vice-president Jagdeep Dhankhar said.