Story So Far: Morbi Bridge Collapse
At least 141 people lost their lives in the tragic collapse of the century-old bridge.
A century-old suspension bridge in Gujarat's Morbi, Jhulto Pool, collapsed on October 30 at around 6:30 pm. By the time this report was published, the death toll had reached 141, while around 100 have been reported to be injured. The incident occurred when dozens of people were walking on the bridge. This bridge covered a stretch over the Machchhu river, which is a major tourist attraction in Morbi. According to sources, several women and children were hanging on the bridge when it snapped, which led them to fall steeply into the river. Rescue teams are spread out searching the river.
The bridge, which was closed for seven months, was opened just four days ago on October 26, for tourists and the public, after repairs and renovation. However, it is said that the bridge was opened without a fitness certificate from the Morbi Municipality by the Oreva Group (Ajanta Manufacturing Pvt. Ltd) which was awarded the contract to maintain and manage the bridge by the municipality. The Chief Municipal officer stated that the private firm opened the bridge without notifying the municipality, which is why no safety audit was conducted. Interestingly, the company specialises in CFL bulbs, wall clocks and e-bikes, and reports say it is surprising that it got the contract of maintaining a 100-year-old bridge.
As per an NDTV report, the bridge was in fact opened ahead of schedule. The company was bound by its contract to keep the bridge shut for at least eight to 12 months for maintenance and repairs. After opening it before time, the company even sold tickets at ₹ 17, the report says. It also said that on Sunday (when the incident occured) tickets were sold for Rs 12 to Rs 17, but there was no apparent crowd control.
Pointing to the damage caused by negligence and mismanagement, officers at B-division Morbi city police station lodged the first information report (FIR). The FIR has named the company with no mention of the name, responsible for maintaining the bridge. Moreover, Minister of State (Home) Harsh Sanghavi has mentioned that a criminal case has been registered, in view of the collapse of the suspension bridge in Morbi, under sections 304 (causing death by negligence), 308 (attempt to commit culpable homicide) and 114 (abettor present when offence is committed).
Chief Minister (CM) Bhupendra Patel, has announced an ex-gratia of Rs 4 Lakhs for the families who have suffered the loss of their family members and Rs 50,000 for the injured. Along with this, the Prime Minister’s office (PMO) also announced an ex-gratia of Rs 2 Lakhs from the Prime Minister National Relief Funds (PMNRF) for the next of kin of each of those who lost their lives in this incident.
Shocked and deeply saddened by the tragic incident of the cable bridge collapse in Morbi, Gujarat just a week after renovation!— DK Shivakumar (@DKShivakumar) October 30, 2022
My deepest condolences to the families of the victims, and I pray for the recovery of the trapped people with every possible assistance.#MorbiBridge pic.twitter.com/Z4Yb0RySvA
Two teams from the Indian Army, Indian Air Force (IAF), Navy Coast Guard have been appointed for the rescue and relief operation at the site. The Indian Army squads are from Surendranagar and Bhuj and the team of Guard commandos from the IAF are from Jamnagar. While the two teams of the Indian Navy include 50 divers who also hail from Jamnagar and Porbandar respectively. Apart from this, a medical team has also been appointed on the site, along with five teams of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), eight platoons of the State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF) and the team from the fire department.
The Jhulto pool is listed among a list of attractions on the Gujarat tourism website. Built in the 19th century during British rule, it was considered to be an engineering marvel. This bridge was 1.25 metre wide and had a span of 233 metres, connecting Darbargadh and the Lakhdhirji Engineering College. The total capacity of the bridge was to hold a maximum of 150 people, but reports say that when the bridge snapped there were about 400 people on it. The spokesperson for the Oreva group said that while the company waiting for more information, prima facie, the bridge collapsed as too many people in the mid-section of the bridge were trying to sway it from one way to the other.
Meanwhile, the Gujarat government has appointed a five-member committee of bureaucrats and police officers to probe into the incident. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is on a three-day tour to election-bound Gujarat, will be visiting Morbi on Tuesday, November 1.
Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge has also demanded a judicial inquiry into the accident to probe into its cause. AAP leader Durgesh Pathak also demanded an investigation into everyone involved, including the Chief Minister and demanded the CM's resignation.
Since the collapse of the bridge, there are at least two missing individuals as per the reports. According to Officer NK Bishnoi who said that “there may be more, this is not an exact figure yet.” The authorities are now trying to investigate deeper with sonar technology to track any electronic devices fallen into the river. Reports suggest that the contractor of Oreva group had outsourced the work to a little-known firm. Jaysubhai Patel, Managing Director of Oreva group claimed that the renovated bridge would last for at least eight to ten years. The Gujarat state police have arrested nine individuals in the case including two managers, two ticket clerks, two contractors and three security guards. These nine individuals are being investigated for the case of culpable homicide but not amounting to murder.
After being arrested, Deepak Parekh, one of the Managers of Overa Group told the court that it was “the will of God” which is why the incident took place. The investigation reports suggest that the cable of the bridge was rusted and had not been replaced by the company that claimed it renovated the bridge. “As a part of maintenance and repairs, only the platform was changed. The bridge was on a cable and no oiling or greasing of the cable was done. From the points where the cable broke, the cable was rusted. Had the cable been repaired, the incident would not have happened”, said a State Police officer. As per the prosecution, the contractors were not even qualified for the maintenance and repairs of the bridge.
Story updated on 3rd November 2022, 07:45 pm for latest details.