Pedestrian bridge collapses into river in India, killing at least 132
Videos from the scene showed a crowd clicking smartphone photos from the crowded bridge on Sunday evening when it began to sway and suddenly gave away. Some officials estimated 400 people were packed onto the bridge when the suspension cables snapped and the 760-foot span collapsed.
Men, women and children were seen clinging onto the snapped bridge above the waterline. Some crawled along its crumpled railings back to shore; others were lost in the water. The Indian military deployed army units and navy divers to help with rescue efforts.
As rescue operations continued Monday, scrutiny turned to the company tasked with renovating and operating the bridge. The contractor, Oreva, a large manufacturer known for producing clocks and electric bikes, wrapped up a six-month renovation of the bridge Friday just in time for Gujarati New Year. It reopened to tourists without first obtaining clearance from the government, city official Sandeepsinh Zala told the Indian Express.
Zala also criticized the bridge operators for allowing tourists onto it without controlling the flow of people.
Local police have so far detained eight people for interrogation, said a Morbi police official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
In its initial legal complaint, local police did not name Oreva or any other firm, but said it would file culpable homicide charges against “the agency responsible for maintaining the bridge” and the “management agency.” A charge of culpable homicide falls short of murder and is similar to manslaughter in the U.S. legal system.
A spokesperson for Oreva said it appeared that “the bridge collapsed as too many people in the midsection of the bridge were trying to sway it from one way to the other,” according to the Indian Express.
It’s unclear why the company, which specializes in manufacturing wall clocks, electric bikes and ceramic products, was contracted to operate the bridge. The company could not be reached for comment on Monday.
The bridge, highlighted on Gujarat’s official tourism website, is almost a century old and remains popular with tourists. It was built by a Gujarati prince who was fascinated with construction. Waghji Thakor built railways, ports, temples and the bridge, which was meant to be a technological showcase connecting two of his palaces.
On Sunday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he was “deeply saddened” by the tragedy and said he had sought “urgent mobilisation” of rescue teams to the disaster zone, which was bustling with mainly women and children shortly before the tragedy. He was set to visit the site on Tuesday.
Bhupendra Patel, chief minister of Gujarat, shared video footage on social media of people being pulled from the river by rescue teams using boats and flotation devices.
Hassan in London and Mahesh Langa in Ahmedabad contributed to this report.