Indian police are filing murder charges over the Morbi Bridge collapse that has killed 134 people

Indian police are filing murder charges over the Morbi Bridge collapse that has killed 134 people


NEW DELHI — Indian officials on Monday filed murder charges against operators of a suspension bridge and launched an investigation after at least 134 people were killed when the footbridge collapsed, dumping tourists into the Machchhu River in western Gujarat state.

In addition to the dead, a number of people are still missing as of Monday afternoon, Ashok Yadav, a Gujarat police official, told The Washington Post. Some outlets, citing unnamed officials, reported The death toll could be higher, exceeding 140. The accident happened in Morbi, a riverside town known for its Victorian-era bridge and old town, and came amid a holiday rush: tourists have been celebrating Diwali as well as the Gujarati New Year, which this year falls on October 26 fell.

A footbridge collapses into a river in India, killing at least 132 people

Videos from the scene showed a crowd clicking smartphone photos of the crowded bridge on Sunday night when it began to sway and suddenly gave way. Some officials estimated that 400 people were packed onto the bridge when the suspension cables snapped and the 760-foot span collapsed.

Men, women and children were seen holding on to the broken bridge over the waterline. A few crawled along the crumpled railing back to shore; others were lost in the water. The Indian military deployed army units and navy divers to assist in the rescue effort.

As rescue work continued on Monday, the audit turned to the company tasked with renovating and operating the bridge. The contractor, Oreva, a large manufacturer known for making watches and Electric bikes, on Friday completed a six-month renovation of the bridge in time for the New Year in Gujarati. It has reopened to tourists without first seeking government approval, city official Sandeepsinh Zala told Indian Express.

Zala also criticized bridge operators for allowing tourists on without controlling the flow of people.

Local police have so far arrested eight people for questioning, said a Morbi police officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

In their first legal complaint, local police didn’t name Oreva or any other company, but said they would file criminal manslaughter charges against “the authority in charge of bridge maintenance” and the “management authority.” A charge of manslaughter comes second to murder and is similar to manslaughter in the US legal system.

A spokesman for Oreva said, according to the Indian Express, that “the bridge appears to have collapsed because too many people in the central section of the bridge were trying to move it from one direction to the other.”

It is unclear why the company, which specializes in the manufacture of wall clocks, electric bicycles and ceramic products, was hired to operate the bridge. The company could not be reached for comment Monday.

The bridge, which is highlighted on Gujarat’s official tourism website, is almost a century old and remains popular with tourists. It was built by a Gujarati prince who was fascinated with building. Waghji Thakor built railways, ports, temples and the bridge that would connect two of his palaces as a technological showcase.

On Sunday Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he was “deeply saddened” of the tragedy and said he was looking “Urgent Mobilization” by rescue workers to the disaster area, which was mostly populated by women and children shortly before the tragedy. On Tuesday he wanted to visit the construction site.

Bhupendra Patel, Prime Minister of Gujarat, made the announcement Video material on social media of people being pulled from the river by rescue teams using boats and flotation devices.

Hassan in London and Mahesh Langa in Ahmedabad contributed to this report.

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