The death toll in Morbi suspension bridge collapse rose to 132 on Monday, Gujarat Minister of State for Home Harsh Sanghavi said, adding rescue personnel are looking for two persons believed missing.
“The rescue operation is in its last stage in the Machchhu river. It will be over soon,” the minister told reporters. “As per the latest information, 132 people lost their lives in the tragedy and two are still missing,” the minister said.
The state information department said that five teams of NDRF, six platoons of SDRF, a team of Air Force, two columns of Army, and two teams of Indian Navy apart from local rescue teams were involved in the operation that continued through the night.
The over a century-old bridge, which had reopened five days ago after extensive repairs and renovation, was crammed with people when it collapsed around 6.30 pm on Sunday.
Sanghavi told reporters at Morbi, around 300 km from the state capital, that the state government has formed a committee to probe the collapse. Eyewitnesses said there were several women and children on the British era “hanging bridge” when it snapped, plunging them into the water below.
Some people were seen jumping on the bridge and pulling its big wires, an eyewitness said, adding the bridge may have collapsed due to the “huge crowd” on it.
After the collapse, all that remained of the bridge was part of the metal carriageway hanging down from one end into the dark water, its thick cables snapped in places.
At the local hospital people formed a human chain to hold back crowds and keep the road clear for ambulances which brought those rescued. Sanghavi said a five-member high-powered committee has been formed to probe the bridge collapse.
It includes Roads and Buildings department secretary Sandeep Vasava and four other senior officers. An FIR was lodged in the bridge collapse under sections 304 (culpable homicide not amounting to murder), 308 (intentional act causing death) and 114 (abettor present when offence committed), against whoever is found responsible, Sanghavi said.
Due to the Diwali vacation and being a Sunday, there was a rush of tourists on the bridge, a major tourist attraction.
A private operator had carried out the repair work of the bridge for nearly six months before it was reopened to the public on the Gujarati New Year Day on October 26.
It was opened to the public after the completion of the renovation work. But the local municipality had not yet issued any fitness certificate (after the renovation work), an official said. Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel reached the accident site late in the night and also met those injured at the civil hospital.
The state government has announced a compensation of Rs 4 lakh to the kin of the deceased and Rs 50,000 for the injured.
The National Disaster Response Force rushed three teams to Morbi district. Following the accident, Modi has cancelled his road show, scheduled to be held in Ahmedabad Monday ahead of the state Assembly polls, BJP sources said.
A “page committee sammelan”, scheduled to be held on Tuesday in Modi’s virtual presence, has been put off, they added. Congress said its Parivartan Sankalp Yatra that was to be taken out from five zones across the state on Monday has been postponed by a day following the bridge collapse.