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Colonial era bridge in India collapses killing at least 134

Monday, October 31st 2022 - 21:18 UTC
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When the bridge was run by Morbi's City Hall, it had a cap of 20 people at any given time. Photo: Ajit Solanki / AP When the bridge was run by Morbi's City Hall, it had a cap of 20 people at any given time. Photo: Ajit Solanki / AP

Indian authorities arrested 9 suspects Monday to account for the collapse of an old pedestrian bridge in the small industrial town of Morbi, in the State of Gujarat state, in which at least 134 people have been killed.

Among those detained were contractors, ticketing agents, managers of the bridge’s operator, Oreva Group, and 3 security guards, Inspector-General Ashok Yadav told reporters. “We won’t let the guilty get away, we won’t spare anyone,” he warned.

According to local press reports, some 177 people have been rescued in the wee hours of Monday, it was explained.

The pedestrian bridge dating back to the British era collapsed Sunday afternoon, throwing hundreds of people into the Machchhu river in Morbi, about 240 kilometers west of Gandhinagar, the capital of Gujarat.

Eyewitnesses said over 400 people were on the bridge at the time of the collapse. Among the victims were women and children. The bridge is a popular tourist attraction in the area, which was opened to the public a few days after repairs.

While the actual cause of the collapse was not immediately known, local authorities suggested overcrowding could be a possible explanation.

Some 19 people have been hospitalized with serious injuries. “An isolation ward has also been set up at the civil hospital for treatment of the injured,” Gujarat Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel's office reported. Patel is in Morbi to oversee relief and rescue efforts and has visited the injured at the hospital. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is currently in his home state of Gujarat, said he was “deeply saddened by the tragedy.”

According to surveillance video footage, young people overcrowding the colonial-era bridge while others were rocking it sideways when they all fell more than 30 feet into the Machchhu River below as the cables snapped.

Earlier this year, the Oreva group was awarded a 15-year contract to maintain and manage the bridge built in 1877 during the British occupation. Oreva immediately closed the bridge for repairs after taking hold of it in March. The bridge has been repaired several times in the past and many of its original parts have been replaced over the years. The construction was reopened on Oct. 26, the first day of the Gujarati New Year, which coincides with the Hindu festival season. The attraction lured hundreds of tourists. Oreva is known for manufacturing watches and clocks, mosquito zappers, and electric bicycles.

A Morbi official quoted by the Indian Express said the company had reopened the bridge without first a certificate attesting to its suitability for public use. When the bridge was run by the City Hall, it had a cap of 20 people at any given time. On Sunday, some 400 people had bought tickets to get onto the 4-foot wide bridge spanning 255 yards to celebrate the Diwali and Chhath Puja festivals. About 35 of the victims were under 14 years of age, it was reported.

US President Joseph Biden released a statement Monday afternoon expressing his sorrow to the people of India over the tragedy.

Categories: International.
Tags: India.

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