Eyewitnesses estimate that upwards of 500 people were on the structure at the time of the collapse into Machchhu River in the Morbi area on Sunday evening (30 October).
The 137-year-old suspension bridge had reopened to the public without the required safety certificate on 26 October, following a US$242,000 renovation by bridge operator Oreva. The firm is a company famed for clock-making which had operated the bridge since 2008 and had an agreement to continue in the role until 2037.
Gujarat government minister Brijesh Merja tweeted from the scene during the rescue operations, saying that the priority is to save people and provide immediate treatment to the injured.
India’s prime minister Narendra Modi has been in contact with Gujarat chief minister Bhupendra Patel regarding the accident and has offered all possible help from the central government.
Independent bridge consultant Richard Fish said that the precise nature of the renovation works that took place some nine months prior to the collapse should be a priority for the investigation. “Were they just carrying out repainting and repairs? Or were they aware that some elements may have been reaching the end of their working life? Had the main cable ever been replaced? There are so many points of failure on a suspension bridge, it only takes one hanger connection from the main cable to the deck to fail, for the whole bridge to unzip, which is what it looks like happened.”
Above: Rescue efforts are under way (photo by Regional Information Office, government of Gujarat)