The century-old suspension bridge on the Machchhu river in Morbi town of Gujarat, about 240 km from Gandhinagar, collapsed on Sunday evening, officials said. The bridge reopened just four days ago, after being closed for about seven months for repair work.
While the bridge is owned by the Morbi municipality, the civic body had signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Oreva Group, a private firm known for manufacturing clocks, earlier this year, handing over its operations and maintenance for 15 years. The 230m (754ft) bridge on the Machhu river was built during British rule in the 19th Century.
According to reports, several women and children were on the “hanging bridge” when it snapped, plunging them into the water below. The incident occurred at about 6:30 pm, when dozens of people were walking on the bridge, a major tourist attraction of Morbi.
“About 70-80 people were injured or left stranded in the waters of Machchhu after they fell into the river following the collapse of the bridge,” said Brijesh Merja, Minister of State for Panchayat and the local MLA from Morbi. “Search and rescue operations are on. The injured are being rushed to government and private hospitals in Morbi,” he said.
The authorities have promised a full investigation. Questions are being asked about whether safety checks were done before the bridge was reopened. It is a popular tourist attraction known locally as Julto Pul (swinging bridge).
The death toll in Morbi suspension bridge collapse in Gujarat rose to 130 on Monday with rescue personnel recovering more bodies from the Machchhu river, a police official said. Around 177 people have been rescued after the disaster. Around 19 people are under treatment, as per the Gujarat information department. The rescue operation is still under way. The Indian Army reached around 3 at night. We are trying to recover the bodies. Teams of NDRF are also carrying out rescue operations, Major Gaurav, Indian Army, told ANI.
“Gujarat CM Bhupendra Patel reached Morbi last night. He has been holding the command of search and rescue ops since yesterday. State government has constituted a committee to investigate this incident. I assure the people of the country that there will be no laxity in rescue & relief ops,” PM Modi said
On Sunday, a spokesperson of the Oreva Group said: “While we are waiting for more information, prima facie, the bridge collapsed as too many people in the mid-section of the bridge were trying to sway it from one way to the other”.
The Chief Minister’s Office (CMO) said three NDRF teams, 50 Navy personnel, 30 IAF personnel, two columns of the Indian Army, and seven fire brigade teams had been sent to Morbi. A separate ward has been set up at Morbi Civil Hospital, it said.
A local resident said, “There were nearly 300 people on the bridge, which was opened a few days back for the public. The majority of the victims were children, as they came here to enjoy their Diwali vacation. Locals rushed to the spot immediately after the mishap, and pulled out many people alive.” Another resident said the incident opened the wounds of the Machchhu dam tragedy of 1979, when thousands of local residents died due to flooding.
Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel announced an ex-gratia of Rs 4 lakh for the families of those killed and Rs 50,000 for the injured. The Prime Minister’s Office announced “an ex-gratia of Rs 2 lakh from PMNRF (Prime Minister National Relief Fund) for the next of kin of each of those who lost their lives in the mishap in Morbi. The injured would be given Rs. 50,000.”
Meanwhile, the Gujarat government appointed a five-member team of bureaucrats and police officers to probe the bridge collapse.