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India footbridge death toll climbs

The death toll from a bridge collapse in India which sent hundreds plunging into a river has risen to 132.

A cable suspension bridge after its collapse in India. Photo: AP/Ajit Solanki

A cable suspension bridge after its collapse in India. Photo: AP/Ajit Solanki

A footbridge over the Machhu River in the Gujarat town of Morbi was packed with sightseers enjoying holiday festivities when it collapsed on Sunday, plunging people into the river below.

“The death toll in the bridge collapse incident has gone up to 132. The search and rescue operations are continuing,” said the senior official, NK Muchhar, adding that the toll could rise further.

Armed forces personnel along with national disaster management and emergency teams from nearby districts were deployed to trace missing people and help with rescue operations, Muchhar said.

Authorities said more than 400 people were on and around the colonial-era suspension bridge at the time of the collapse. The bridge had drawn many sightseers celebrating the Diwali, or festival of lights, and Chhath Puja holidays.

A five-member team was appointed to conduct an investigation into the disaster.

The 230-metre bridge was built during British rule in the 19th century. It had been closed for renovation for six months and was reopened for the public recently.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is in his home state Gujarat for a three-day visit, said he had directed the state chief minister to mobilise teams urgently for the rescue operation.

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Fifty navy and 30 air force personnel were called in to help along with a national disaster management team to trace missing people, the government said in a statement. A five-member team was appointed to conduct an investigation into the disaster.

Opposition party leaders alleged that the government had not conducted a thorough technical assessment and load bearing capacity before it was opened to the public.

The incident also comes ahead of elections in Gujarat, which are expected to be held by the year-end with the current term of the Modi’s ruling party’s term ending in February.

-AAP

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