AJIT SOLANKI, KRUTIKA PATI and SHEIKH SAALIK – Associated Press
MORBI, India (AP) — Military teams were searching Monday for people missing after a century-old suspension cable bridge collapsed into a river in the western Indian state of Gujarat on Sunday, sending hundreds of people into the water to their deaths. measures 133 people in one of the worst accidents in the country in recent years.
As families mourned the dead, attention turned to why the bridge, built by the British in the late 1800s and touted as an “engineering marvel,” collapsed and who might be responsible.
The local authority has awarded a 15-year contract for the maintenance and operation of the bridge to Morbi-based Ajanta Manufacturing Pvt. Ltd., mainly known for manufacturing watches, mosquito nets and electric bicycles.
He reopened the bridge, which spans a wide stretch of the Macchu River, on October 26. It was the first day of the Gujarati New Year, which coincides with the Hindu festival season, and the newly opened attraction attracted hundreds of visitors.
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Sandipsinh Zala, a Morbi city official, told the Indian Express that the company had reopened the bridge without first obtaining a “fitness certificate”. The claim could not be independently verified, but the state government said it had formed a special team to investigate. disaster.
Authorities said the structure collapsed under the weight of hundreds of people. Footage of the disaster showed the bridge shaking violently, with people struggling to hold onto its cables and green metal railing before the aluminum walkway gave way and fell into the river.
Visuals from the crash site showed the bridge split down the middle, with the metal walkway hanging down and its cables broken in places. At least 177 survivors have been pulled from the river and teams from the army, navy and air force are searching for others who are still missing, said Jigar Hunt, an official at the Gujarat Information Department.
Minister of State Harsh Sanghvi told reporters that 133 people had been confirmed dead and many others were taken to hospital in critical condition. Emergency services and rescuers worked throughout the night to search for survivors. Most of the victims are teenagers, women and the elderly, he said.
It was not immediately clear exactly how many people were on the bridge when it collapsed, but survivors said it was packed so tightly that the crowd was unable to move quickly to safety when its cable began to break.
“There were too many people on the bridge. We could barely move,” said Siddiq Bai, 27, recovering from his injuries in a hospital bed in Morbi.
Siddique said he jumped into the water when the bridge began to crack and saw his friend pinned down by the metal walkway. He survived by clinging to the cables of the bridge, but his friend did not.
“Everyone was screaming for help, but one by one everyone started disappearing in the water,” said Siddiq.
Local news channels published photos of the missing, shared by concerned relatives and family members who rushed to overcrowded hospitals in search of their loved ones.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, during a visit to his home state of Gujarat, said he was “deeply saddened by the tragedy”. His office announced compensation to the families of the dead and called for quick rescue action.
“Rarely in my life have I felt such pain,” Modi said at a public event in the state on Monday.
Modi was the chief elected official of Gujarat for 12 years before becoming the Prime Minister of India in 2014. Elections to the Gujarat state government are expected in the coming months, and opposition parties have demanded an inquiry into the collapse.
The bridge collapse was the third major mass casualty disaster in Asia in a month.
on saturday the Halloween mob killed more than 150 people, mostly young people who attended the festivities in Ithaewon, a district of Seoul, South Korea. On October 1, the police in Indonesia used tear gas at a soccer match, killing 132 people as the audience tried to escape.
India’s infrastructure has long been marred by security concerns, and Mordi has suffered other major disasters. In 1979, a dam on the upper reaches of the Macchu River burst, sending water into the city and killing hundreds of people in one of India’s worst dam disasters.
In 2001, thousands of people died in an earthquake in Gujarat. The town of Morbi, located 85 miles (150 km) from the epicenter of the earthquake in Bhuj, suffered extensive damage. According to a report in the Times of India, the bridge that collapsed on Sunday was also badly damaged.
Ayaz Hussain, Salik and Patti reported from New Delhi.
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