Modi visits the site of the deadly bridge collapse in India

Modi visits the site of the deadly bridge collapse in India


Divers searched for more bodies on Tuesday after a recently renovated suspension bridge collapse in western India killed 134 people. Prime Minister Narendra Modi was preparing to visit the site of the disaster.

Questions also grew about the possible cause of Sunday’s disaster in Morbi, in Modi’s home state of Gujarat.

Nine people have been arrested for murder over the collapse of the 150-year-old building.

The pedestrian bridge was packed with people celebrating the last day of the Diwali holiday. Among those killed were 47 children, downgrading the previous total of 137.

Terrible CCTV footage showed the rickety building, a popular tourist spot, packed with people and then suddenly giving way when cables snapped.

Several hundred fell into the river while others clung desperately to the twisted remains of the bridge, screaming for help in the dark.

“I heard screams and a loud bang and then it was quiet. Then slow crying and screaming,” survivor Madhvi Ben, 30, told AFP.

Ben said one of her legs became tangled in “a steel cable”, causing her to be almost completely submerged and struggling to free herself.

“I sort of blocked my nose and pulled myself up and unhooked my leg from the wire. I grabbed another wire and climbed the remains of the bridge,” she said.

Morbi businessman Rafiq Gaffar, whose two nephews died aged 12 and 21, described the scene as “chaos”.

“People cried and wailed. It was a doomsday scene,” said Gaffar, 45.

“There were dead bodies everywhere on the water and people trapped on the bridge desperately crying out for help.”

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There were no further reports of missing persons on Tuesday.

Rescuers in rubber boats drove in circles to retrieve items from the bottom of the river.

“We have not yet called off the search operation as there is always this concern that there may be victims from outside whose relatives do not know their whereabouts and have not yet contacted us,” said Rahul Tripathi of Morbi Police.

Workers also collected plastic waste from the riverbanks and reportedly painted a hospital Modi was scheduled to visit.

The bridge renovations were reportedly carried out by local company Oreva, whose expertise was limited to watches, e-bikes and other products.

The company could not be immediately reached for comment.

Jaysukh Patel, chairman of Ajanta Manufacturing, part of Oreva, had cut a ribbon to reopen the bridge on October 26 and said the span would then last another 15 years.

But Morbi Municipality Chief Officer Sandeepsinh Jhala said Monday the bridge had not been issued with a safety certificate.

Police arrested nine people on Monday for involuntary manslaughter as authorities announced an investigation.

These included two Oreva managers, two subcontractors and two ticket collectors who were accused of overselling passes, causing the bridge to become congested.

Three security guards were also arrested for failing to deal with the crowd on the bridge, senior police officer Ashok Yadav told reporters on Monday.

“As the investigation progresses, the names of other individuals associated with the Oreva group will also be collected,” Yadav said.

He said a team had been formed to study aspects of the bridge’s maintenance and structural safety.

Textile merchant Puneet Pitroda, 35, told AFP at the Morbi crematorium on Monday that the bodies of his brother and sister-in-law had been recovered from the river.

“The authorities bear full responsibility for the tragedy. They allowed hundreds to gather on the bridge when it could only accommodate a small number,” he said.

“We will never forget this night.”

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