At least 78 people, including women and children, died after a century-old suspension bridge on the Machchhu river in Gujarat’s Morbi city collapsed on Sunday evening.
Officials confirmed that the bridge, which reopened four days ago after extensive repairs and renovation, was crammed with people when it collapsed around 6.30 pm.
“At least 60 people have died in the tragedy,” Gujarat minister Brijesh Merja told reporters.
Eyewitnesses said several women and children were on the British-era “hanging bridge” when it snapped, plunging them into the water below.
An eyewitness said some people jumped on the bridge and pulled its big wires. He added that the bridge may have collapsed due to the “huge crowd” on it.
People fell over each other when the bridge collapsed, he said.
The bridge was reopened for the public just four days back after seven months of repair work by a private firm but had not received the municipality’s “fitness certificate,” an official said.
“I had come to the river bank with friends after my office hours when we heard the sound of the bridge snapping. We rushed there and jumped into the water to save people,” an eyewitness said.
“We rescued some children and women,” he said.
A man injured in the incident said the collapse was sudden and may have been due to too many people on the bridge.
Due to the Diwali holiday and the fact that it was a Sunday, there was a surge of travelers on the bridge, a popular tourist attraction. A private operator reconstructed the bridge after about six months until it reopened to the public on October 26, Gujarati New Year’s Day.
A fire department official said boats were being used to rescue people from the river.
“We are carrying out rescue work using boats. There are around 40-50 people in the river,” the official said.
Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel said the tragedy saddened him. “Relief and rescue operations by the administration are going on. The administration has been instructed to arrange immediate treatment for the injured. I am in constant contact with the district administration in this regard,” he said.
The Chief Minister’s Office said an isolation ward has also been set up in the civil hospital to treat those injured in the bridge collapse.
The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) said in a tweet that Prime Minister Narendra Modi, currently in Gujarat, spoke to Patel and officials.
Modi sought urgent mobilization of teams for rescue ops, the PMO said, adding that the PM has asked that the situation be monitored closely and all possible help be extended to those affected.