Health & Fitness Journal —
The death of 135 people when a cable suspension bridge collapsed in the western Indian state of Gujarat is one of the worst public safety tragedies to hit the country in recent years.
As authorities investigate the incident, questions have been raised about how the narrow walkway collapsed and the role played by an electrical manufacturer tasked with maintaining the colonial-era structure, which only reopened to the public after repairs last week.
Here’s what we know.
According to Gujarat authorities, an estimated 200 people were on the bridge over the Machchhu River in the city of Morbi when it collapsed into the water around 18:30 local time on October 30.
At least 30 were children among the 135 killed, officials said. It is unclear how many people are still missing and authorities have not released a number for the injured.
A 36-second video clip shared by the Morbi District Administration via Health & Fitness Journal affiliate News-18 shows a large crowd of young men gathered on the bridge just before the collapse.
The video appears to show some of the men shaking the bridge from side to side before the structure gives way, dumping the people standing on it into the river.
Gujarat Home Minister Harsh Sanghavi said on October 31 that a cable appeared to have snapped.
Photos from the aftermath show people gathered on the riverbank next to the shattered metal pier, which hung at a sharp angle into the water.
Survivors and witnesses of the deadly incident described scenes of chaos.
“People were hanging on the bridge after the accident, but they slipped and fell into the river as it collapsed,” Raju, a witness who gave only one name, told Reuters. “I couldn’t sleep all night because I helped with the rescue operation. I have taken many children to the hospital.”
Narendrasinh Jadeja, whose boyfriend lost seven family members including four children, told Reuters: “I cannot express how angry and helpless I feel.”
The Morbi Suspension Bridge was built during British rule around 1900 and is 230 meters (755 feet) long and just 1.25 meters (4 feet) wide.
For decades it has been a popular tourist attraction in the riverside town, whose cobblestone streets bear the architectural legacy of colonial rule.
The bridge was closed in April for six months of renovations, according to the chief executive of Oreva, a Gujarat-based electrical appliance manufacturer who was overseeing the maintenance work.
At a ceremonial reopening on October 26, the managing director handed over told reporters The structure would not require major work for “eight to 10 years,” according to a video of the event posted on social media.
A five-person Special Investigative Committee has been set up to investigate the incident, Gujarat Interior Minister Sanghavi said on October 31.
Search and recovery operations by hundreds of State and National Disaster Response Team personnel and the Indian military are ongoing.
Nine people were arrested and being investigated for manslaughter, state police said Oct. 31. All suspects are linked to Oreva.
These include two managers, two ticketing clerks, two contractors and three security guards, according to senior police officer Ashok Kumar Yadav.
Since the fatal incident, public attention has focused on 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 watchmaking company in the world” and “one of the most important brands in India.”
Health & Fitness Journal has reached out to Oreva multiple times but has received no response.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to visit Morbi on November 1st. Victims’ families will receive compensation from the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund, he said.
Gujarat Prime Minister Bhupendra Patel said the state government would provide compensation equivalent to about US$5,000 per family of the deceased and about US$600 each for those injured.
The cremation of the victims is scheduled to begin on November 1st.