Gujarat bridge collapse: Death toll rises to 134; rescue operation on

The Gujarat Home Minister further informed that a criminal case has been registered in connection with the incident

Morbi (Gujarat): The death toll in Morbi suspension bridge collapse rose to 134 on Monday, a senior Gujarat police official said, adding that the rescue operation was still underway.

Gujarat Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel and Minister of State for Home Harsh Sanghavi remained in Morbi during the night to oversee the rescue operation being conducted by multiple agencies.

The more than a century-old bridge on the Machchhu river in Morbi, located around 300 km from the state capital Gandhinagar, had reopened five days ago after extensive repairs and renovation. It was crammed with people when it collapsed around 6.30 pm on Sunday.

"The death toll in the bridge collapse incident has gone up to 134," Rajkot Range Inspector General Ashok Yadav told PTI.

The state information department said five teams of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), six platoons of the State Disaster Response Force (SDRF), a team of the Air Force, two columns of the Army, and two teams of the Indian Navy apart from local rescue teams were involved in the operation that continued through the night.

"The rescue operation is still on," Yadav said.

Sanghavi told reporters that the state government has formed a committee to conduct a probe into the bridge collapse.

Eyewitnesses said there were several women and children on the British era hanging bridge when it snapped, plunging them into the water below.

Apart from locals, people from nearby cities and villages had also come to the bridge on a holiday when it collapsed.

Due to the Diwali vacation and being a Sunday, there was a rush of tourists on the bridge, a major tourist attraction.

Before the tragedy occurred, some people were seen jumping on the bridge and pulling its big wires, an eyewitness said, adding that the bridge may have collapsed due to the huge crowd on it.

People fell over each other when the bridge collapsed, he said. Several of the victims were seen hanging by the edge of the bridge to prevent themselves from slipping into the river.

After the collapse, all that remained of the bridge was part of the metal carriageway hanging down from one end into the river water, its thick cables snapped in places.

At the local hospital, people formed a human chain to hold back crowds and keep the road clear for ambulances which brought those rescued.

A private operator had carried out the repair work of the bridge for nearly seven months before it was reopened for the public on the Gujarati New Year day on October 26.

The bridge was reopened after a private inaugural event and was yet to receive the municipality's "fitness certificate," a civic official said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is currently in Gujarat, spoke to CM Patel and other officials, the PM's Office said in a tweet.

Modi announced an ex-gratia of Rs 2 lakh from the Prime Minister's National Relief Fund (PMNRF) for the next of kin of each of the deceased and Rs 50,000 to each of the injured, the PMO said.

The state government announced a compensation of Rs 4 lakh for the kin of the deceased and Rs 50,000 for the injured.

Following the accident, Modi cancelled his road show scheduled to be held in Ahmedabad Monday ahead of the state Assembly polls, BJP sources said.

He will attend a programme to launch some railway projects in Ahmedabad.

A "page committee sammelan", scheduled to be held on Tuesday in Modi's virtual presence, has been put off, the sources added.

The Congress said its 'Parivartan Sankalp Yatra', which was to be taken out from five zones across the state on Monday, was postponed by a day following the bridge collapse

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