Military teams are searching for missing people after a century-old pedestrian bridge collapsed into a river in Gujarat, western India, on Sunday evening, killing at least 132 people.
India (AP) — Military teams were searching for missing people Monday after a century-old cable suspension bridge collapsed into a river in the western Indian state of Gujarat on Sunday, sending hundreds plunging into the water and killing at least 132 people in one of the country’s worst accidents in a decade.
At least 177 survivors were pulled from the river, and teams from the army, navy and air force were searching for others who remained missing, according to Jigar Khunt, a Gujarat information department official.
Hundreds of others were seen desperately clinging to the broken structure and trying to make their way to safety, while crowds onshore shouted or swam to try to rescue those who had fallen in.
The 19th-century, colonial-era pedestrian bridge over the Machchu river in the state’s Morbi district collapsed due to the weight of the large crowd, according to authorities, as the Hindu festival season drew hundreds of visitors to the recently opened tourist attraction. Security footage from the disaster showed the suspension bridge shaking violently and people clinging to its cables and green-colored metal netting before collapsing into the river.
The 232-meter (761-foot) bridge had been closed for nearly six months for repairs before reopening four days earlier for the Gujarati New Year.
Images from the disaster site showed the bridge split in half and the metal carriageway hanging down, with some of its metal cables snapped.
State minister Harsh Sanghvi told reporters that 132 people had been confirmed dead, with many more in critical condition. Sanghvi stated that emergency responders and rescuers worked all night to find the survivors. According to him, the majority of the victims were teenagers, women, and elderly people.
It was unclear how many people were on the bridge when it collapsed, but survivors said it was so densely packed that the crowd was unable to flee when the cable strings snapped.
“The bridge had far too many people on it.” “We could hardly move,” Sidik Bai, 27, said from a hospital bed in Morbi, where he was recovering from injuries.
Sidik claimed he jumped into the water after witnessing his friend being crushed by the bridge’s metal carriageway. He survived the disaster by climbing the bridge and clinging to its cables, but his friend did not.
“Everyone was yelling for help, but one by one, they all began to vanish in the water,” Sidik explained.
Local news outlets aired photos of the missing, which were shared by concerned relatives looking for their loved ones. Many family members rushed to overcrowded hospitals in search of their loved ones.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was on a three-day visit to his home state of Gujarat, said he was “deeply saddened by the tragedy.” His office announced compensation for the victims’ families and urged for quick rescue efforts.
“I have rarely experienced such pain in my life,” Modi said at a public event in the state on Monday.
Modi was the state of Gujarat’s top elected official for 12 years before becoming India’s prime minister in 2014.
A state government election in Gujarat is expected in the coming months, and opposition parties have called for an investigation into the collapse, alleging that the bridge was reopened without a safety clearance. Although the claim could not be independently verified, the state government announced the formation of a special team to investigate the disaster.
The state’s civic body officials told local news outlets that the bridge, built by the British in late 1880 during the Victorian era and hailed by the Gujarat government as an “engineering marvel,” may have been opened without a “fitness certificate” by the private company that operates it.
Safety concerns have long plagued India’s infrastructure, resulting in major disasters on its highways and bridges.
The bridge collapse is Asia’s third major disaster in a month involving large crowds.
On Saturday, a Halloween crowd surge killed more than 150 people, the majority of whom were young people attending festivities in Itaewon, a neighborhood in Seoul, South Korea. On October 1, police in Indonesia fired tear gas at a soccer match, causing a crash that killed 132 spectators as they tried to flee.