9 arrested over Morbi bridge collapse that killed 134 in India

New Delhi

Nine people have been arrested over the collapse of a suspension bridge in India’s western Gujarat state that killed at least 134 people on Sunday, police said.

The suspects are all associated with Oreva, a Gujarat-based electrical appliances manufacturer that performed maintenance on the 230-meter long bridge in the town of Morbi, senior police officer Ashok Kumar Yadav told reporters Monday. The bridge had only reopened last week after repairs.

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The nine include two managers, two ticket clerks, two contractors and three security guards, according to Yadav.

The suspects are being investigated for culpable homicide not amounting to murder, said Yadav, who added that a special investigation team was examining the incident.

At least 134 people, including 30 children, died when the narrow bridge collapsed into the river on Sunday evening around 6:30 p.m. local time, as locals in the riverside town joined Diwali celebrations.

Some 200 people are estimated to have been on the bridge at the time, according to Gujarat Home Minister Harsh Sanghavi, who said a cable at one end appears to have snapped.

Indian rescue personnel conduct search operations after a bridge across the river Machchhu collapsed in Morbi, some 220 kms from Ahmedabad, early on October 31, 2022.

Built more than a century ago, the bridge is just 1.25 meters (four feet) wide and hangs over the Machchhu River to form a gateway to Morbi, a town that still carries the architectural legacy of British rule.

Photos from the scene Monday showed people gathering on the bank of the river beside the mangled metal walkway, which hung at a sharp angle into the water.

Search efforts involving hundreds of personnel from state and national disaster relief teams and the Indian military are set to resume on Tuesday, district official Vishal Kanjaria told CNN.

As of Monday evening, a total of 170 people had rescued, according to Vishal Kanjaria, an administrative official for Morbi district. Some remain in hospital and others have returned home, though an exact breakdown is not yet known.

Speaking at a news conference in the early hours of Monday, Sanghavi did not say how many people are missing, but social media video showed dozens in the water following the collapse of the bridge.

TV footage showed people holding the cables and remains of the bridge as emergency teams tried to reach them, Reuters reported. Some climbed up the wrecked structure to reach the river banks, while others swam to safety.

Rescue personnel conduct search operations on October 31, 2022.

The families of the victims will receive compensation from the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund, according to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Speaking Monday at a campaign event ahead of a state-level election in Gujarat, Modi said his “heart is filled with love and is with the families of those suffering.”

“The state government has set up a committee to investigate the incident. I assure the people of the country that there will be nothing lacking in the relief and rescue efforts,” Modi said.

People gather as rescuers search for survivors after a suspension bridge collapsed in Morbi in the western state of Gujarat, India, October 31, 2022.

Gujarat Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel said the state government would provide the equivalent of about $5,000 in compensation per family of the deceased and about $600 each for the injured.

“I express my condolences to the families of the citizens who lost their lives in the tragedy,” he tweeted.

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