At least 24 persons were killed and over 60 injured when an old wooden footbridge over a spring gave way, under the pressure of crowd, during a Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) meeting at Bijanbari in Darjeeling district.

District Magistrate Saumitra Mohan said 24 persons were killed and over 60 were injured when the bridge over Little Rangeet collapsed, about 30 km from Darjeeling.

Superintendent of Police Anand Kumar said the death toll might go up.

The bridge, which had been weakened by the September 18 earthquake, collapsed when a large number of people gathered on it for the GJM meeting.

North Bengal Development Minister Gautam Deb, who was at the spot, said the rescue operation was on in full swing and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee was personally monitoring and supervising it.

Though the rescue team was using search lights, the darkness was posing a problem in the operation, Mr. Kumar said.

Asked whether many people were washed away by the current of Little Rangeet, he said he did not have any such information. “It was not much deep.”

Gopal Roy, in-charge of the district disaster management, said the rescue operation was being conducted by the personnel of the fire brigade, police and the disaster management department.

Ms. Mamata Banerjee, who returned from New Delhi after the NDC meeting, said she would be in Darjeeling on Sunday, along with Railway Minster Dinesh Trivedi and Union Minister of State for Health Sudip Bandopadhyay.

State Disaster Management Minister Javed Khan said all seriously injured persons were being shifted to the North Bengal Medial College Hospital.

Meanwhile, an army spokesman said it was sending a 40-member team of the Mountain Brigade, Darjeeling, along with a medical team, at Bijanbari at the request of the District Magistrate.