MORBI, India, Nov 1 (Reuters) – The death toll from a footbridge collapse in India rose to 135 on Tuesday as the search continued into its third day, but authorities said almost all of those suspected to be missing had now been identified. .
Crowds had gathered in the city to celebrate Diwali and Chhat Puja when a colonial-era suspension bridge over the Machchhu river in Morbi collapsed on Sunday evening, submerging people in 10 meters (33 feet) of water.
Authorities believe about 200 people were on the bridge when it collapsed.
“One person who was injured in the incident and taken to hospital died of his injuries, taking the death toll to 135,” Morbi senior municipal official GT Pandya told Reuters.
“The search has resumed today. We believe one person is currently missing.”
Local residents at the site of the damaged bridge told Reuters on Tuesday that they believed more than 200 people were still on the bridge and feared the death toll could rise.
The Indian Army, Navy and National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) teams continue the search as locals gather on the river bank. The 233-meter-long, 1.25-meter-wide bridge was originally built in 1877 and was closed for six months for repairs until last week.
“It is suspected that there may be some dead bodies in the riverbed, so we resumed the operation with the help of our divers,” said NDRF officer V.V.N. Prasanna Kumar told Reuters TV partner ANI.
A CCTV footage of the incident shows a group of youths trying to rock the bridge back and forth, while others take pictures of the bridge before it falls into the waterway.
Indian police arrested nine people on Monday for murder. Those arrested include ticket sellers accused of overcrowding on the bridge and contractors who were in charge of repairs.
The western state of Gujarat, where Morbi is located, declared Wednesday a day of mourning.
The state government said in a statement that 152 people have been discharged and 17 are undergoing treatment.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who hails from Gujarat and served as the state’s chief minister for nearly 13 years, will visit the industrial city later in the day.
Modi, who is visiting the poll-bound state early next year, is expected to visit the disaster site and Morbi Hospital, officials said.
Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party has been attacked by the opposition for painting the hospital in a new way ahead of the Prime Minister’s visit.
Most recently, US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping expressed their condolences, and most of them were children.
“We will continue to support the people of India during this difficult time,” Biden said in a statement.
“On behalf of the Chinese government and the Chinese people, I would like to extend my deepest condolences to the victims, their families and the injured,” Chinese state broadcaster CCTV quoted Xi as saying.
Reporting by Shivam Patel and Sumit Khanna; By Sudipto Ganguly in Mumbai; Edited by Edwina Gibbs and Jacqueline Wong
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