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Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Morbi Bridge Tragedy: Toll touches 140, rescue ops continue

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Morbi(Gujarat): A First Information Report for culpable homicide has been filed by the Gujarat Police after a century-old bridge collapsed killing over 140 people, as per officials.

The case was registered hours after on Sunday evening the colonial era cable bridge snapped in Morbi town plunging hundreds of people into the 10-feet deep Machchhu river below.

Police said the bridge that had just been opened less than a week back for the public was crammed with people when it collapsed around 6.30 pm. Most of the people who came on the bridge had come for Chhath Puja.

The case has been filed under IPC sections 304 and 308 (culpable homicide not amounting to murder) even as several are missing and more than a 100 have been admitted and are under treatment, officials have told the media.

Rajkot range IG Ashok Yadav earlier on Monday put the toll at 132 as he said that seven more injured were hospitalised and feared the toll could increase. Searching for people in the river is still underway, he added.

“The rescue operation is in its last stage in the Machchhu river. It will be over soon,” Gujarat Minister of State for Home, Harsh Sanghavi told the media.

He said: “A criminal case has been registered. An investigation has begun today under the leadership of Range IGP.”

Meanwhile, Garud commandos sent from Bhuj and other locations have set out for Morbi, defence officials said. National Disaster Response Force teams have been deployed and helicopters have been on stand-by.

An IAF plane with NDRF team reached the collapse site. Another aircraft was also on its way, as per officials. Helicopters have been put on stand-by in Jamnagar an other nearby locations for rescue operations, they said.

The Indian Naval Station Valsura in Jamnagar sent a team of more than 40 personnel for rescue operations that include marine commandos and seamen, the defence officials have told the media

An Indian Army team, including doctors and paramedical staff reached the accident site from an artillery brigade near Dhrangdhra and are active part of the rescue and relief operations, they said. Another Army team with doctors and other relief material was also deputed.

Besides, three Indian Coast Guard teams, consisting of divers, boats and other equipment have been deployed at the collapse site since Sunday night, the defence officials said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is on a three-day tour to Gujarat and Rajasthan, said “My heart goes out to Morbi bridge collapse victims”, as he addressed people on Rashtriya Ekta Diwas in Kevadia.

Modi has decided to cancel his roadshow scheduled in Ahmedabad later in the day in the wake of the Morbi incident.

“Gujarat CM Bhupendra Patel reached Morbi last night. He has been holding the command of search and rescue ops since yesterday. State government has constituted a committee to investigate this incident. I assure the people of the country that there will be no laxity in rescue & relief ops,” Modi said.

The prime minister has already announced an ex-gratia of Rs 2 lakh for kin of each deceased and Rs 50,000 for the injured.

Eyewitnesses have said there were many women and children on the nearly 150-year-old bridge when its cables snapped, sending scores into the river below.

BJP MP from Rajkot Mohanbhai Kalyanji Kundariya told news channels that 12 members of his family were killed in the Morbi bridge collapse.

Congress on Monday read out condolence message at a party meeting as party chief Mallikarjun Kharge said: I offer my condolences. An inquiry headed by retired SC/HC judge should be done as to how the bridge collapsed after 5-6 days of inauguration and who allowed so many people there. All necessary help including compensation should be provided to victims.”

The suspension bridge reopened five days back for the public after seven months of repair work by a private firm. Whether it had received a ‘fitness’ certificate from the municipality authorities is not clear.

Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot has said that the Gujarat government should investigate the incident of bridge collapse and bring the culprits to book. Gehlot on Sunday night was in Sirohi, where he told the media that the government should do a fair investigation and find out under what circumstances and how the bridge that opened after renovation a few days ago fell.

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