- Modi visits the site in the home country
- The search continues for the third day in a row
- Someone else thinks he’s missing – responsible
MORBI, India (Reuters) – Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi called for lessons to be learned while visiting the site of a bridge collapse that killed 135 people and met some of the injured in hospital on Tuesday.
Army, Navy and National Disaster Response Forces continued their search as local people gathered on the banks of the Machu River in Modi’s home state of Gujarat.
Morbi’s colonial-era pedestrian suspension bridge was packed with spectators—many of whom were in town to celebrate Diwali and Chhat Puja festivals—when it receded on Sunday evening, sending people drowning nearly 10 meters (33 feet) into the water.
A senior police official told Reuters about 200 people were on the bridge when it collapsed. Local municipal officials said tickets have been sold for about 400 people, but they don’t have to be on the bridge at the same time.
“The Prime Minister said that at the moment the need for a detailed and intense investigation to determine all aspects related to this incident,” Modi’s office said in a statement, seeing the scene of the disaster.
He also added that key lessons from the investigation should be implemented as soon as possible.”
Opposition leader Rahul Gandhi, of the Congress party, said earlier that he refused to politicize the incident, but in the capital, New Delhi, dozens of protesters demanded the resignation of the Gujarat chief and demanded more compensation.
“The country is angry today because about 150 people died in Morbi but this government has done nothing but shed crocodile tears,” said an anonymous protester. The police arrested the crowd within minutes.
The protesters demanded compensation of 2 million rupees ($24,000) for all victims – the injured and the families of the dead. So far, the state and central governments have given 600,000 rupees ($7,000) to the relatives of those who lost their lives.
On Tuesday, local residents at the site told Reuters they feared the death toll would rise further.
JT Pandya, a senior administrative official in Morbi, said one person who was injured died of his injuries on Tuesday, bringing the death toll to 135. One person is still missing according to authorities’ estimates.
Gujarat, which declared a day of mourning on Wednesday, said in a statement that 152 people have been discharged from hospital while 17 are still undergoing treatment.
The bridge – 233 meters long and 1.25 meters wide – was originally built in 1877 and was closed for six months for repairs until last week.
Television footage of the accident showed a group of young men trying to rock the bridge from side to side while others took pictures before falling into the river below as the cables retracted.
Police arrested nine people on Monday under sections of the penal code including premeditated murder that does not amount to murder. Those arrested included ticketing officials accused of allowing a large number of people to board the bridge and contractors who were responsible for repair work.
US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping were the last to send their condolences for the loss of life, many of them children.
(dollar = 82.5170 Indian rupees)
(Shivam Patel and Sumit Khanna report); Written by Sudiptu Ganguly in Mumbai; Editing by Edwina Gibbs, Jacqueline Wong and Alison Williams
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