Indian police file murder charges in Morbi bridge collapse that killed 134 people

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NEW DELHI – Indian authorities on Monday filed murder charges against the operators of the suspension bridge and arrested nine people. Tourists drowned in the Machu River in western Gujarat state after at least 134 people died after a recently renovated footbridge collapsed.

Apart from the dead, many others were still missing as of Monday afternoon, Gujarat police official Ashok Yadav told The Washington Post. Some outlets, citing unnamed officials, reported The death toll could be as high as 140. The accident happened in Morby, a riverside town known for its Victorian bridge and old town, and came amid the holiday rush. Tourists are celebrating the festival of Diwali along with the Gujarati New Year which falls on October 26 this year.

In photos: Over 134 killed in bridge collapse in India

Videos of the scene showed a crowd snapping smartphone photos from the crowded bridge on Sunday evening, which began swaying violently before collapsing. Some officials estimated that up to 400 people were crammed onto the bridge — well above the safe limit — when the suspension cables buckled and gave way to a 760-foot span.

Farooq Adam Shanti, who lives in Morbi and lost his 18-year-old cousin Riaz Rehman patti in the accident, arrived at the scene 10 minutes after the bridge collapsed. Some onlookers clung to the collapsed bridge just above the water, crying for rescue. Others crawled along its rails and returned to shore. Many others drowned.

“It was confusing,” Shanti said.

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Surveillance footage shows the collapse of a crowded pedestrian bridge in the western Indian state of Gujarat on October 30. At least 130 people died. (Video: Reuters)

His cousin drowned but his friend Iqbal survived and Shanti rushed to the hospital. There, he said, hundreds of relatives like him went from room to room to retrieve the bodies of their loved ones, where corpses were placed in almost every corner. In the 10-foot-by-10-foot room used for autopsies, doctors were “overwhelmed,” Shanti said.

As rescue operations continued on Monday, the Indian Army sent naval divers to search for the bodies and the probe returned to the company that was working to renovate and operate the bridge. The contractor, Orewa, is a large manufacturer known for watches and manufacturing The six-month renovation of the bridge was completed on Friday, just in time for the electric bikes, Gujarati New Year. It was reopened to tourists without seeking permission from the government, city official Sandeepsingh Jhala told The Indian Express.

Jala also criticized the bridge operators for selling as many tickets as possible Without restricting the movement of people.

After a day of investigation, local police arrested nine people, including two Orewa executives, two contractors, three security guards and two ticket window clerks, a Morbi police official said late Monday. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

In its initial legal complaint, the local police did not name Orewa or any other company, but said it would file culpable homicide charges against “the company responsible for maintaining the bridge” and “the management company”. The charge of culpable homicide falls short of murder and is similar to manslaughter in the US legal system.

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At least 132 people were killed when a pedestrian bridge collapsed into a river in India

An Orewa spokesperson said, “Many people in the middle of the bridge were trying to shift from one lane to the other when the bridge collapsed,” Indian Express reported.

It is not clear why the company, which specializes in making wall clocks, electric bikes and ceramics, was contracted to operate the bridge. The company could not be reached for comment on Monday, and local media reported that its offices were deserted.

In India, a string of public safety accidents have been blamed on shoddy construction. In 2019, six people died after a pavement collapsed near Mumbai’s historic Chhatrapati Shivaji Railway Terminus building. In 2011, more than 30 festival goers died when a bridge collapsed near the Himalayan hill town of Darjeeling.

Featured on Gujarat’s official tourism website, the bridge is nearly a century old and popular with tourists. It was built by a Gujarati prince who was fascinated by construction. Vaji Tagore built railways, ports, temples and a bridge that was a technological spectacle connecting his two palaces.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Sunday “deep regret” Saddened and said he tried “Emergency Mobilization” Rescue teams rushed to the disaster zone, mainly women and children, just before the tragedy. He was to visit the site on Tuesday.

Mahesh Lanka in Ahmedabad, Shams Irfan in Srinagar, Anand Gupta in New Delhi and Jennifer Hassan in London contributed to this report.

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