NEW DELHI/ AHMEDABAD: The death toll from the collapse of a colonial-era suspension bridge in India’s western Gujarat state has risen to 132, according to officials, as rescue workers worked through the night, combing the Machhu River for survivors.
Harsh Sanghavi, Gujarat’s home minister, told reporters that the death toll rose from 68 on Sunday to 132 early on Monday as search operations continued.
Gujarat’s Information Department said about 177 people had now been rescued, while 19 were receiving medical care.
The bridge in Morbi, a town some 200km (120 miles) west of Gujarat’s main city Ahmedabad, was built during British colonial rule in the 19th century and had been closed for renovations for nearly six months before it was reopened to the public last week.
Hundreds of sightseers celebrating Diwali and the Chhath Puja holidays, were on the 230-metre (755-foot) bridge when it collapsed on Sunday, according to local media.
Television footage showed dozens of people clinging onto the cables and twisted remains of the bridge as emergency teams struggled to rescue them.
Prateek Vasava, who swam to the river bank after falling from the bridge, told the 24 Hours Gujarati-language news channel that he saw several children fall into the river.
“I wanted to pull some of them along with me but they had drowned or got swept away,” he said.
The bridge collapsed in just a few seconds, he said.
Another witness, who gave his name as Sukram, told the Reuters news agency that the bridge had collapsed because it could not handle the weight of so many people.
“Many children were enjoying holidays for Diwali and they came here as tourists. All of them fell one on top of another. The bridge collapsed due to overloading,” he said.
Gujarat’s government said an investigation was under way into the cause of the disaster.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is in Gujarat, his home state, for a three-day visit, announced a payment of 200,000 Indian rupees ($2,428) to families of the dead.
The injured will receive 50,000 Indian Rupees ($607), he said in a tweet.
Armenia, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Sri Lanka, the United Arab Emirates and others sent their condolences over the tragedy.
Italy’s foreign ministry expressed its “deep sorrow” and “condolences for the victims and our utmost sympathy to their families and all the [Indian] people at this tragic time”.
The UAE said it stood in “solidarity with India”, while Sri Lanka said it was “shocked and distressed by the tragic accident in Morbi”.