Eyewitnesses said guards on the bridge in India struggled to control the crowd before the collapse
MORBI, India, Nov 1 (Reuters) – A security guard stood at either end of a 145-year-old pedestrian bridge in the Indian city of Morbi on Sunday evening, blowing whistles and repeatedly asking crowds to leave the rickety structure. The Machchu river, the eyewitnesses said.
One of the six people who saw the bridge collapse and told Reuters about its final moments said he and his colleagues also shouted from the bank to warn of the danger.
At least 135 people died when the structure, built in 1877, gave way, plunging the victims into the waters below.
Police estimate the number of people on the bridge at around 200. Local officials say about 400 tickets have been sold, though not necessarily on the bridge at the same time.
“We even called out to people to tell them to leave because we could see there was a lot of crowd,” Ajay Kumar told Reuters, telling Reuters he and his colleagues were on the eastern bank of the river monitoring the crowd. to construction.
“Then the bridge collapsed before our eyes,” said the 32-year-old builder.
He said that women and children were among those drowning, adding that he heard their cries and cries.
In the hours before the accident, several hundred people gathered on the 233-meter (255-yard) bridge, which reopened last Saturday after months of repair work.
One private security guard was present at each end of the bridge, but they struggled to control the flow of sightseers as dusk fell, four other witnesses and one survivor said. Witnesses did not know if the security guards survived.
“Please listen to us, don’t shake the bridge, don’t crowd, keep moving,” the guards said, but people didn’t listen, said Pankaj Kumar, another construction worker who was on the river bank.
Kumar’s story was echoed by three other witnesses and survivor Mahesh Bhai Chavda, who said he and his friends entered the bridge minutes before the collapse through one of the ticket booths at either end of the bridge.
“We saw security guys whistling at people asking them not to gather and keep moving,” said 18-year-old Chavda.
CCTV footage showed a group of youths taking photos while others tried to swing the bridge from side to side when the cables snapped and they jumped off the narrow walkway.
Police have so far arrested nine people on charges of murder not considered culpable homicide.
Those arrested include ticket sellers and three security guards who were on duty when the bridge collapsed, senior police official Ashok Kumar Yadav said. Reuters could not confirm whether the three arrested included the two guards whom witnesses reported seeing near the bridge.
“The incident took place due to lack of crowd control and management,” Yadav, who is leading the investigation into the incident, told Reuters.
Late on Tuesday, a baby blue shoe lay at the entrance to the bridge, which carries the brand of Orewa, best known as a maker of watches and electrical products, and which was contracted this year to maintain and manage the bridge.
Municipality official Sandepsinh Zala said Oreva had are not aware of the local authorities about the reopening of the bridge.
A spokeswoman for Orewa did not return repeated calls and text messages from Reuters seeking comment on the incident and witnesses since Sunday.
The Indian Express newspaper on Sunday quoted Oreva’s spokesperson as saying: “…the bridge collapsed because too many people in the middle of the bridge were trying to move it from one side to the other.”
Chaotic scenes continued at Morbi General Hospital.
Hundreds of people had gathered there, desperate to find out about their loved ones, as bodies lay on stretchers and beds inside the wards, volunteer aid worker Bhaskar Vala said.
A staff member, who asked not to be named, said there was little room to move because of the crowd and it was difficult to tell the living from the dead.
“People were sharing photos of their family members with us,” said 33-year-old Vala. “I helped identify eight members of one family who were all dead.”
Devjyot Ghoshal writes; Editing by Alison Williams
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