Gujarat: Suspension bridge that collapsed in Morbi reopened 5 days ago, lacked fitness certificate; death toll mounts to 132 | The Financial Express

Gujarat: Suspension bridge that collapsed in Morbi reopened 5 days ago, lacked fitness certificate; death toll mounts to 132

“The bridge was given to Oreva company for operation and maintenance for 15 years. In March this year, it was closed for the public for renovation. It reopened after renovation on the Gujarati New Year day celebrated on October 26,” Morbi Municipality’s chief officer Sandeepsinh Zala said.

Gujarat: Suspension bridge that collapsed in Morbi reopened 5 days ago, lacked fitness certificate; death toll mounts to 132
The more than a century-old bridge in Morbi city, located around 300 km from the state capital Gandhinagar, caved in around 6.30 pm on Sunday when it was crammed with people. (Photo source: AP)

The suspension bridge on the Machchhu river in Gujarat‘s Morbi city which collapsed killing at least 132 people was reopened for the public just five days back after seven months of repair work by a private firm, but had not received the municipality’s “fitness certificate”, an official said. The more than a century-old bridge in Morbi city, located around 300 km from the state capital Gandhinagar, caved in around 6.30 pm on Sunday when it was crammed with people.

“The bridge was given to Oreva company for operation and maintenance for 15 years. In March this year, it was closed for the public for renovation. It reopened after renovation on the Gujarati New Year day celebrated on October 26,” Morbi Municipality’s chief officer Sandeepsinh Zala said. “It was opened for the public after the completion of the renovation work. But the local municipality had not yet issued any fitness certificate (after the renovation work),” he said.

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An “engineering marvel” built at the turn of the 19th century, the suspension bridge was said to reflect “the progressive and scientific nature of the rulers of Morbi,” as per its description on the district collectorate website.

Sir Waghji Thakor, who ruled Morbi till 1922, was inspired by the colonial influence and decided to construct the bridge, an “artistic and technological marvel” of that period, to connect Darbargadh Palace with Nazarbag Palace (the residences of the then royalty). The bridge was 1.25 metres wide and spanned 233 metres, and was meant to give a unique identity to Morbi using the latest technology available in those days in Europe, as per the collectorate website.

Morbi bridge collapse: Death toll mounts to 130; more bodies fished out of river

The death toll in Morbi suspension bridge collapse in Gujarat rose to 130 on Monday with rescue personnel recovering more bodies from the Machchhu river, a police official said. 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.

“At least 130 deaths have been reported so far,” the official said. Gujarat Minister of State for Home Harsh Sanghavi told reporters at Morbi, around 300 km from the state capital, that the state government has formed a committee to probe the collapse.

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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.

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First published on: 31-10-2022 at 09:18 IST