The toll in the Morbi bridge collapse rose to 143 on Monday even as rescue operations are still under way. The world witnessed the second major tragedy in two days, after the Halloween stampede in South Korea’s Seoul killed 151 people on Saturday. The very next day, a 140-year-old cable suspended bridge in Gujarat’s Morbi, which was refurbished and thrown open to public barely 72 hours ago, collapsed around 6.30 pm.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be in Morbi on Tuesday to take stock of the situation. The state government has formed a five-member high-powered committee to probe the bridge collapse. It includes Roads and Buildings department secretary Sandeep Vasava and four other senior officers.
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 navy apart from local rescue teams were involved in the operation that continued through the night.
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.
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.
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.
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.