At least 90 were killed after more than 350 people fell into the Machchu river when a newly renovated colonial-era suspension bridge collapsed on October 30 evening in Morbi town of Gujarat. Brijesh Merja, Morbi MLA and Minister, who confirmed the death toll, said the number was likely to go up.
Live updates | Morbi bridge collapse
The bridge, which was reopened four days ago after repairs and renovation by a private trust, collapsed around 6.30 p.m., officials said. The bridge has not reportedly received the fitness certificate from civic authorities.
Due to the Deepavali vacation and being a Sunday, there was a rush of people on the bridge, a major tourist attraction.
Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel and Ministerial colleagues rushed to Morbi to oversee the rescue. Several teams of the National Disaster Response Force and personnel of the Navy and the Air Force have been ordered to be airlifted to the site.
President Droupadi Murmu and Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed grief at the loss of lives. Mr. Modi, who is in Gujarat for a three-day visit, directed the Chief Minister to mobilise teams on an urgent basis for rescue.
Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge and party leader Rahul Gandhi appealed to party workers to extend every possible assistance.
The Prime Minister announced an ex gratia of ₹2 lakh from the PM’s National Relief Fund for the next of kin of each of the deceased. The injured will be given ₹50,000. The Chief Minister announced an ex gratia of ₹4 lakh for the next of kin of each of the deceased and ₹50,000 for the injured.
The State government has also set up a five-member committee to inquire into the incident.
The State government has officially not given any casualty figure but the Prime Minister and Chief Minister have announced the ex gratia for the dead and for the injured.
The tragedy has occurred ahead of the upcoming Assembly election, causing massive embarrassment to the ruling BJP, which has lined up several big events and public rallies of Mr. Modi for October 31 and November 1 in the State. According to sources, the BJP is contemplating cancelling the Prime Minister’s roadshow and other political events in the State. There is also a possibility of Mr. Modi visiting Morbi on October 31 to take stock of the situation.
This is the second major tragedy in Morbi, where over 3,000 people died when a dam broke in 1979.
The bridge was originally built by the erstwhile princely state of Morbi and was considered a marvel of British engineering. Locally known as the Julto Pool, it is one of the tourist attractions of Morbi, a major industrial town with thousands of factories making ceramic tiles and bathroom products and wall clocks.
(with PTI inputs)