Modi is seeking a detailed inquiry as India’s bridge count stands at 135
- Modi visits a site in his home state
- The search continues for the third day in a row
- One more person is still missing, officially
MORBI, India, Nov 1 (Reuters) – Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi demanded lessons be learned as he visited the site of a bridge collapse that killed 135 people and met several injured in hospital on Tuesday.
Teams from the Army, Navy and National Disaster Response Force continued the search while locals gathered on the banks of the Machchu river in Modi’s home state of Gujarat.
A colonial-era suspension footbridge in Morbi was packed with sightseers, many celebrating the city’s Diwali and Chhat Puja festivals, when it gave way on Sunday night, sending people plunging into about 10 meters (33 feet) of water.
A senior police official told Reuters that about 200 people were on the bridge when it collapsed. Local city officials said about 400 people were ticketed, though not necessarily on the bridge at the same time.
“The Prime Minister said that the need of the hour is to conduct a detailed and extensive investigation that will reveal all aspects related to this mishap,” Modi’s office said in a statement after he saw the scene of the disaster.
“He also added that key learnings from the investigation should be implemented as soon as possible.”
Main opposition Congress leader Rahul Gandhi earlier said he refused to politicize the incident, but dozens of protesters in the capital New Delhi demanded the resignation of the Gujarat state leader and demanded additional compensation.
“The country is angry today that nearly 150 people died in Morbi, but this government has done nothing but shed crocodile tears,” shouted an unidentified protester. The police detained the crowd within minutes.
The protesters called for 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 offered 600,000 rupees ($7,000) to the relatives of those who lost their lives.
Local residents at the scene told Reuters on Tuesday they feared the death toll could rise.
GT Pandya, a senior administrative official in Morbi, said the injured succumbed to their injuries on Tuesday, taking the number to 135. Authorities estimate one person is still missing, he said.
Gujarat, which declared a day of mourning on Wednesday, said in a statement that 152 people had been discharged from hospital and 17 were still undergoing treatment.
It bridge – 233 meters long and 1.25 meters wide – was originally built in 1877 and until last week was closed for six months for repairs.
CCTV footage of the incident showed a group of youths trying to swing the bridge from side to side, while others took pictures before they fell into the river below when the cables gave way.
On Monday, police arrested nine people under articles of the criminal code, including culpable homicide not amounting to murder. Among those arrested were ticket sellers accused of allowing too many people to enter the bridge and contractors responsible for the repair work.
US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping were the latest to offer condolences for the dead, many of whom were children.
($1 = 82.5170 Indian Rupees)
Reporting by Shivam Patel and Sumit Khanna; By Sudipto Ganguly in Mumbai; Editing by Edwina Gibbs, Jacqueline Wong and Alison Williams
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