The death of 135 people in the collapse of a cable-stayed bridge in the western Indian state of Gujarat is one of the worst public safety tragedies to hit the country in recent years. The incident happened last Sunday (30).
As authorities investigate the incident, questions have been raised about how the narrow passageway collapsed. Attention is focused on the role of an electricity manufacturing company tasked with maintaining the structure that dates back to the colonial era. After undergoing repairs, the point was only reopened to the public last week.
An estimated 200 people were on the bridge over the Machchhu River in the town of Morbi when it collapsed into the water on October 30 at around 6:30 pm. local time, according to Gujarat authorities.
At least 30 children are among the 135 dead, officials said. It is not known how many people remain missing and authorities have not released a figure for the injured.
A 36-second video, shared by the Morbi District Administration via CNN affiliate News-18, shows a crowd of youths gathered on the bridge moments before the collapse.
The video appears to show some of the men shaking the bridge from side to side before the structure gives way, throwing people on it into the river.
Gujarat Interior Minister Harsh Sanghavi said on 31 October that a cable appeared to have snapped.
What the witnesses say
Survivors and witnesses of the deadly incident described scenes of chaos.
“People were hanging from the bridge after the accident, but they slipped and fell into the river when it collapsed,” said Raju, a witness who gave only his first name to Reuters. “I couldn’t sleep all night because I helped with the rescue operation. I brought many children to the hospital.”
Narendrasinh Jadeja, whose friend lost seven members of his family, including four children, said: “I cannot express how angry and helpless I feel.”
What is known about the bridge
The Morbi Suspension Bridge was built during British rule around 1900 and is 230 meters (755 ft) long and just 1.25 meters (4 ft) wide.
For decades it has been a popular tourist attraction in the riverside town, whose cobblestone streets carry the architectural legacy of colonial rule.
The bridge was closed for six months for renovations in April, according to the managing director of Oreva, a Gujarat-based home appliance maker that oversaw the maintenance work.
At a reopening ceremony on Oct. 26, the managing director told reporters that the structure would not need major work for “eight to 10 years,” according to a video of the event posted on social media.
What are the authorities doing?
A five-person special investigative committee has been established to investigate the incident, Gujarat Interior Minister Sanghavi said on 31 October.
Search and recovery operations by hundreds of personnel from state and national disaster relief teams and the Indian military remain ongoing.
Nine people have been arrested and are being investigated on manslaughter charges, state police said Oct. 31. All suspects are associated with Oreva.
They include two managers, two clerks, two contractors and three security guards, according to police officer Ashok Kumar Yadav.
What is known about the company Oreva
Since the deadly incident, public scrutiny has turned to Oreva, a company based in Ahmedabad, Gujarat’s largest city.
Oreva started out as a watchmaker before diversifying into electronics, according to its website, which describes the company as the “largest watch manufacturing company in the world” and “one of India’s top brands”.
CNN has contacted Oreva several times, but has not received a response.
What is being done by victims
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is due to visit Morbi later today. Victims’ families will receive compensation from the prime minister’s National Relief Fund, he said.
Gujarat Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel said the state government would provide the equivalent of around US$5,000 in compensation per family of the deceased and around US$600 each for the injured.
The cremation of the victims should begin this Tuesday (1st).
*Posted by Carolina Cerqueira
Source: CNN Brasil
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