New Delhi, Oct 31 (EFE).- The death toll due to a bridge collapse in India’s western state of Gujarat rose to 132 on Monday, officials said, a day after the British-era suspension overpass crumbled into the river below.
The accident in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state, where regional elections are due by the year’s end or early next year, took place on Sunday evening when hundreds of people had gathered on the 150-year-old bridge for a Hindu ritual in the Morbi town.
“Overall, as of now, 132 people have died in the accident,” regional Home Minister Harsh Sanghavi told reporters.
Sanghavi said the state government along with federal agencies launched an intense rescue and relief operation as soon as the accident happened.
Videos from the accident showed people falling on top of each other after some cables of the iconic bridge started snapping.
Some swam to safety but those, who could not, mostly women and children, either suffered injuries or succumbed.
According to local media, the bridge over the Machchhu river was shut for seven months for repairs before being reopened on Oct.26 for the Gujarati New Year celebrations.
Minister Sanghavi said the state government lodged a criminal complaint against the agency involved in the maintenance of the Morbi bridge, some 200 km from the regional commercial capital of Ahmedabad.
The government, he said, formed a special committee to probe the incident.
“The high-power committee was formed and the criminal case lodged to fix the responsibility so that strict action is taken against the people responsible for the accident,” the home minister said.
Morbi municipal body head Sandeepsinh Zhala told reporters on Sunday that the bridge was yet to be cleared for reopening as the renovating company had not taken a safety certificate.
Prime Minister Modi, who is touring the state, said the federal government would give to the families of the victims.
“(The prime minister) has announced an ex-gratia of Rs.200,000 from (the PM National Relief Fund) for the next of kin of each of those who lost their lives in the mishap in Morbi. The injured would be given Rs.50,000,” his office said in a tweet.
State Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel also announced Rs.400,000 lakhs to the family of each deceased and Rs.50,000 to the injured.
The 230-meter bridge was built in the 19th century.
A major tourist attraction, the bridge was said to be an engineering marvel “built to give a unique identity to Morbi using the latest technology available in those days in Europe,” a state government website said. EFE