At least 133 people are dead after a suspension bridge snapped and collapsed in western India. The bridge, touted by state officials as “an engineering marvel,” had been reopened to the public just days after renovations were allegedly completed by the Oreva Group, an e-bike manufacturer and appliance maker.
Although the preconditions for the horrific tragedy that took place on Sunday are now under investigation, with several arrests already made, it appears the catalyst was caught on camera.
The Julto Pul (“hanging bridge”) was a popular tourist site in the city of Morbi in Gujarat state, India, originally built by the British in the late 1880s.
The bridge spanned 233 meters over the Machchhu River and measured 1.25 meters wide. The walkway was built of aluminum and hemmed in by steel wires and netting.
DeshGujarat reported that work had been undertaken this summer to restore the 140-year-old structure and enhance its “longevity and pleasure quotient.” The cost of these restorative efforts was approximately $243,040 USD.
Chief Officer of Morbi Municipality Sandeepsinh Zala stated that the bridge reopened after renovation on the Gujarati New Year day celebrated on October 26, despite allegedly not having yet received any “fitness certificate” from the local government.
In addition to a lack of certification, there were reportedly no proper quality checks executed before the bridge’s reopening to the public.
Around 6:30 p.m. on Sunday, between 400 and 500 people were on the bridge. Officials claimed that the structure snapped owing to the weight of the all the people.
CCTV footage of the incident revealed that right up until the moment of collapse, multiple men were trying to shake the bridge from side to side, seen here:
— YSR (@ysathishreddy) October 31, 2022
The bridge plunged into the river, sending some bodies flying. Survivors clung to cables, wreckage, and netting for dear life. Others dropped into shallow waters.
One segment of the bridge twisted and curled downward. Another segment just dropped straight into the depths below.
The BBC indicated that most of the victims were women, children, or elderly.
Ashwin Mehra, among the survivors, told News18 that some “mischievous men were shaking the ropes of the bridge. Three times a noise came from it before it happened.”
Mehra, lying in a hospital bed in Morbi, said, “I held onto branches of nearby trees and eventually escaped.”
Viyay Goswami corroborated Mehra’s claim, suggesting that youths who were “indifferent” had been shaking the bridge, making it difficult for people to walk.
“There were just too many people on the bridge,” said Sidik Bai. “We could barely move.”
The AP reported that while Sidik survived by holding onto the bridge’s cable, his friend was crushed by the twisted walkway.
Sidik said, “One by one they all began disappearing in the water.”
A young man, still looking for his 6-year-old sister, told the BBC, “I was holding her hand when the bridge collapsed and we fell into the river. I survived and have been looking for her everywhere … my sister is nowhere to be found.”
Another video shows the aftermath, with survivors and first responders rushing to pull the dead and the injured out of the river
Cable bridge collapsed in Morbi, Gujarat, about 400 people fell in the river, many feared drowned
— Truth Unfolds (@_truthunfolds) October 30, 2022
Rescuers, joined by over 300 members of the Indian Army, Navy, Coast Guard and Air Force, worked late into the night, searching for survivors and bodies.
The AP reported that as of early Monday morning, 177 people had already been rescued from the river.
The leader of India’s opposition party, Mallikarjun Kharge, demanded an investigation into how the bridge collapsed only five to six days after being reopened.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is from the region, is expected to visit Morbi on Tuesday.
Modi expressed his condolences to the families who lost loved ones, saying, “In this hour of grief, the government is with the bereaved families in every manner.”
The prime minister announced that the Gujarat government “has constituted a committee to investigate this incident. I assure the people of the country that there will be no laxity in rescue and relief operations.”
Officials indicated that at least nine people have been arrested so far in connection with the tragic collapse: two Oreva Group managers, two contractors, two ticket clerks, and three security guards, all booked for negligence.
According to India Today, the Oreva Group, responsible for maintaining the bridge, is now seeking to pin blame on a third party, Devprakash Solutions, which it alleged had been subcontracted to complete the restoration.
The regional government that runs the western Indian state of Gujarat has announced that the families of victims will each receive approximately 4,000 rupees (~$48.61). The injured will receive 50,000 rupees (~$607.60).