The death toll due to the collapse of a suspension bridge in Gujarat’s Morbi has increased to 141 as of Monday morning, a top police official confirmed. The toll was confirmed to the media by Rajkot Range Inspector General of Police Ashok Yadav.
However, the toll according to the Minister of State for Home Harsh Sanghavi is 132, while two persons remain unaccounted for. He also said that when the two missing persons are located, the search and rescue operations will be over.
As of Monday morning, the Morbi government hospital has released a list of 99 deceased, but has not mentioned the age of the victims.
The tragedy took place on Sunday evening when about 400 people were on the suspension bridge on the Machhu river. A criminal complaint against the cable bridge contractor and manager has been lodged while the police have started a probe into the incident.
Gujarat Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel had set up a five member Special Investigation Team (SIT) headed by an IAS officer, to inquire into the suspension bridge collapse. The state government has deployed four NDRF teams, as well as defence personnel in search and rescue operations, and even summoned swimmers and divers from surrounding districts.
The Morbi Municipal Committee’s Chief Executive Officer S.V. Zala, in a shocking revelation, claimed that the bridge was opened for the public without a fitness certificate.
Zala, addressing the local media, said: “For a long period, this bridge was closed for the public… seven months ago, a private company was given contract for renovation and maintenance, and the bridge was reopened for the public on October 26 (Gujarati New year day) by the private company. The Nagar Palika has not issued a fitness certificate.”
He even claimed that it is possible that the company might have got a fitness certificate from the engineering company, but it was not submitted to the municipality till date. The company, on its own and without informing the civic body, reopened the bridge for the public, he alleged.
This hanging bridge was constructed by Morbi Dynasty rule Sir Vaghaji Thakor some 150 years ago, and its length is 233 metres and it is 4.6 feet wide.
According to locals, the bridge contractor was charging Rs 12 and 17 from visitors.
Local resident Ramesh Jilariya told the local media, that he, resided on the river bank, and “the moment I came to know that the bridge has collapsed, I, along with my friends, rushed to the river and rescued people hanging on the rope and fished out 15 dead bodies from the river”.
(With IANS inputs)