Rescue personnel conduct search operations after a bridge across the river Machchhu collapsed in Morbi in India's Gujarat state on Monday. AFP
Military teams were hunting on Monday for people missing after a century-old cable suspension bridge collapsed into a river Sunday in the western Indian state of Gujarat, sending hundreds plunging into the water and killing at least 132 in one of the worst accidents in the country in the past decade.
At least 177 survivors were pulled from the river and teams from the army, navy and air force were searching for others still missing, said Jigar Khunt, an information department official in Gujarat said.
Live video reports showed hundreds of others desperately clinging to the broken structure and trying to make their way to safety, as crowds onshore shouted or swam to try to rescue who had fallen in.
Authorities said the 19th-century, colonial-era pedestrian bridge over the Machchu river in the state’s Morbi district collapsed because it could not handle the weight of the large crowd, as the Hindu festival season drew hundreds of sightseers to the recently opened tourist attraction.
The 232-meter (761-foot)-long bridge had been closed for repairs for almost six months and had reopened just four days earlier for the Gujarati New Year. Visuals from the disaster site showed the bridge split in the middle and the metal carriageway hanging down, its metal cables snapped in places.
State minister Harsh Sanghvi told reporters that 132 people were confirmed dead and many were admitted to hospitals in critical condition. Sanghvi said emergency responders and rescuers worked overnight to search for the survivors. Most of the victims were teens, women and older people, he said.
The UAE has expressed its sincere condolences and solidarity with the Republic of India over the victims of a bridge collapse in Gujarat in west India, which resulted in the death of dozens of people.
People gather as rescuers search for survivors after a suspension bridge collapsed in Morbi town in India. Reuters
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation (MoFAIC) expressed its sincere condolences and sympathy to the Indian government and people and to the families of victims, as well as its wishes for a speedy recovery to all the injured.
Meanwhile, the Morbi Municipal Committee's Chief Executive Officer SV Zala, in a shocking revelation, said that the bridge was opened for the public after renovation without a fitness certificate from the civic body.
On the state government's request, Union Home Minister Amit Shah has deployed one NDRF team from Rajkot, while Defence Minister Rajnath Singh has instructed the Army rescue teams to rush to Morbi.
The rescue operation is likely to be carried out the entire night, as locals fears that children's bodies have be swept away due to the water flow in the Machhu river.
Rescue personnel conduct search operations. AFP
Local authorities' apprehension is that the bridge has collapsed right in the middle of the river, where the water level is 15 to 20 feet deep, and due to this the death toll is likely to rise.
A total of seven fire brigade teams were pressed into rescue services, and one State Disaster Response Force team, and two NDRF teamas from Gandhinagar rushed to the spot. Local authorities have started a helpline number — 02822-243300 — on which people can seek help to know about their missing relatives.
Gujarat Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel on Sunday set up a five member Special Investigation Team (SIT) headed by an IAS officer, to inquire into the suspension bridge collapse in the Morbi town.
The SIT will be headed by Commissioner of Municipalities Rajkumar Beniwal, and the other members are Secretary, Roads and Building Department, Sandeep Vasava, Inspector General of Police Subhash Trivedi, and two engineers specialised in structural and quality control.
The state government has deployed four NDRF teams, as well as defence personnel in search and rescue operations, and even summoned swimmers and divers from surrounding districts.
According to locals, the bridge contractor was charging Rs12 and Rs17 from visitors.
Local resident Ramesh Jilariya told the local media, that he, resided on the river bank, and "the moment I came to know that the bridge has collapsed, I, along with my friends, rushed to the river and rescued people hanging on the rope and fished out 15 dead bodies from the river".
Locals have rescued a 4-5-year-old boy, who along with seven to eight members of his family, were on the bridge when it collapsed, but his parents, brother, cousins and uncle were missing.
Prateek Vasava, who swam to the river bank after falling from the bridge, told 24 Hours local news channel that he witnessed several children fall into the river.
"I wanted to pull some of them along with me but they had drowned or got swept away," he said.
The bridge had collapsed in just a few seconds, he said.
The 230-metre historic bridge was built during British rule in the 19th century. It had been closed for renovation for six months and was reopened for the public last week.
At least 77 people, including women and children, were killed and scores were missing as the hanging bridge over the Machhu dam in Gujarat's Morbi district collapsed on Sunday evening, officials said.
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