Ns News Online Desk: At least 141 people were reported dead and many more missing in the western Indian state of Gujarat after a colonial-era pedestrian bridge, overloaded with religious revelers, collapsed into the river below, police confirmed Monday.
Authorities said nearly 500 people were celebrating a festival on and around the nearly 150-year-old suspension bridge in Morbi when supporting cables snapped after dark Sunday.
The structure in the western state of Gujarat crashed into the river, spilling scores of people into the water while others clung desperately to the wreckage shouting for help.
“I saw the bridge collapse before my eyes,” one witness who worked all night trying to rescue people said, without giving his name.
“It was traumatic when a woman showed me a photo of her daughter and asked if I had rescued her. I could not tell her that her daughter had died.”
Another witness named Supran told local media that the bridge was “jam-packed.”
“The cables snapped and the bridge came down in a split second. People fell on each other and into the river,” he said.
Ranjanbhai Patel, another Morbi resident, told local media of the difficulties he and others faced in their bid to help people to shore.
“We pulled out people who were able to swim ashore. As most of the people had fallen into the river, we were not able to save them,” he said.
Senior police official Ashok Kumar Yadav told the Agence France-Presse (AFP) on Monday morning that the death toll now stood at 141. Sources said that most of the victims were women and children.
Around 15 others were being treated in hospitals.
The bridge over the Machchhu river, a popular tourist spot, had only reopened several days earlier after months of repairs.
News reports showed footage of people clambering up the twisted remains of the bridge or trying to swim to safety in the dark.
P. Dekavadiya, the head of police in Morbi, earlier told AFP by phone that more than some 130 people had been rescued.
The suspension bridge, 233 meters (764 feet) long and 1.5 meters wide was inaugurated in 1880 by the British colonial authorities and made with materials shipped from England, reports said.
Broadcaster NDTV reported that it reopened Wednesday after seven months of repairs despite not having a safety certificate and that video footage from Saturday showed it swaying wildly.
The district police have launched an inquiry against the contractor, Yadav said. The state has set up a five-member team to probe the tragedy.