Bridge collapses in Gujarat, India, 400 people fall into river, death toll rises to 134

People were allegedly seen swaying on the bridge before it collapsed.

Ruth Chai | November 01, 2022, 03:41 AM

Follow us on Telegram for the latest updates:

A colonial-era pedestrian suspension bridge collapsed into the Machchhu River in the western state of Gujarat, Morbi, in India on Sunday evening, Oct. 31.

The bridge had been reopened just a week ago on Oct. 26 after repairs.

Overcrowded conditions

There was apparently overcrowding on the bridge at the time as people celebrated the Diwali festival, officials said.

The 230m bridge, which was 1.5m wide, was built during British rule in 1877.

When it collapsed, it sent people plunging about 10m into the water below.

Morbi is a riverside town known for its Victorian-era bridge and old town.

Tourists have been celebrating Diwali, as well as the Gujarati New Year, which fell this year on Oct. 26.

Some 400 people had bought tickets to get onto the bridge -- far more than the safe limit permitted to be on the structure at any one point.

Reuters reported that the bridge was previously maintained by the local municipality, which limited the number of people on the bridge at one time to 20.

Death toll to rise

The death toll is reportedly 134 and variously reported to be as high as 141, and is expected to get higher.

An official list of fatalities compiled by police showed more than 50 children were among the dead, some as young as five years old, Washington Post reported.

What happened

One person who fell into the water and got injured but was rescued, was quoted by Reuters as saying that some youths were seen shaking the bridge from side to side before it fell.

"There were about 15 to 20 boys aged between 20 to 25 years who were shaking the bridge," he said.

"We heard some sounds three times, and the sixth time the cable (of the bridge) suddenly snapped."

Security footage showed a crowd snapping smartphone photos from the crowded bridge on Sunday evening moments before it began to sway violently before collapsing.

Witnesses said they saw people dragged underwater after the bridge fell.

It was reported that amidst the grief, anger has spread given the loss in human lives, with one person reportedly losing up to seven family members at one shot.

Rescue operations underway

Police, military and disaster response teams were deployed and the salvage and rescue operations are ongoing.

India prime minister Narendra Modi, who is in his home state Gujarat for a three-day visit, said he had directed the state chief minister to mobilise teams urgently for the rescue operation, Reuters reported earlier.

Authorities quickly launched a rescue operation following the collapse, with boats and divers deployed to search for missing people.

Teams from the Indian army, navy and air force and the coast guard were also deployed to help with the operation.

However, the rescue operation, which was executed at night at first, proved challenging due to poor visibility.

Muddy and sewage-filled waters also hampered rescue operations, where teams in small boats had to paddle up and down the river in search of bodies.

Arrests made

Indian police arrested nine people on Monday, including ticketing clerks and contractors, Reuters reported in its latest update.

Gujarat-based electrical appliances maker Oreva group, known for its Ajanta clocks, had been in charge of maintaining the bridge for 15 years.

The bridge was closed in March 2022 for renovations, it was additionally reported, but authorities in India said they did not issue a fitness certificate for the bridge to be operational as they were not aware it was made publicly accessible.

Top photo via