At least 132 people died in India in the collapse Sunday night of a colonial-era pedestrian bridge that spanned a river in the western state of Gujarat, local police said on Monday. Authorities estimated that 500 people, including women and children, were celebrating a religious holiday on and around the bridge when the cables supporting it gave way shortly after dark.
The death toll from the crash so far is at least 132, Rajkot District Inspector General Ashok Kumar Yadav said Monday morning. “So far, 132 people have died in the bridge collapse. We have not yet received the list of deceased persons”said the inspector general to AFP.
According to district administration sources, most of the deceased are women and children. The state government has appointed a team of five investigators to determine the causes of the bridge collapse, Ashok Kumar Yadav added.
“The cables have dropped”
A complaint against X for manslaughter has been filed. At least 15 people are hospitalized. Morbi police chief P. Dekavadiya told AFP that more than 130 people had been rescued. The bridge over the Machchhu River, located in Morbi, about 200 kilometers west of Ahmedabad, Gujarat’s main city, dated back to British colonial times and had just reopened to the public after months of work.
“The bridge collapsed before my eyes”said a witness, without giving his name, after helping all night to rescue the victims of the accident. “The bridge was full of people”underlined another resident, “the cables let go, the bridge collapsed in a fraction of a second. People, first falling on top of each other, fell into the river. “We helped people who were able to swim to shore”said another witness, Ranjanbhai Patel, “but we could not save most of those who fell into the river”.
The 233-meter-long suspension bridge was built in 1880 with materials imported from England, according to local media. According to the NDTV channel, it had been reopened to the public on Wednesday, after seven months of work, without a security certificate having been issued by the authorities.
A rescue operation was launched, involving divers, boats and dozens of soldiers. Authorities planned to cut off the water supply to the river from the nearby check dam and use pumps to dry up the stream to speed up search operations.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was in Gujarat, where he is from, asked “the urgent mobilization of rescue teams”and the provision of aid for all victims, said his office on Twitter.
Accidents involving old and poorly maintained infrastructure are common in India, especially bridges. In 2016, the rupture of a footbridge over a busy street in the city of Calcutta (east) caused the death of at least 26 people. In 2011, at least 32 people died when a bridge collapsed over which a crowd was celebrating a festival in northeast India, about 30 kilometers from the city of Darjeeling.
Less than a week later, about 30 people were killed in the rupture of a footbridge crossing a river in the state of Aruchnal Pradesh (northeast). In 2006, at least 34 people were killed when a 150-year-old bridge collapsed on a passenger train at a station in Bihar state (east).