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Collapse of a suspension bridge in India: visit by the Prime Minister on the spot

Under the eyes of the Prime Minister who came to meditate, rescuers on board inflatable boats continued to maneuver and dredge the bed of the river, search operations continuing, two days after the disaster in Morbi, located 200 kilometers east of the river.

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Collapse of a suspension bridge in India: visit by the Prime Minister on the spot

Under the eyes of the Prime Minister who came to meditate, rescuers on board inflatable boats continued to maneuver and dredge the bed of the river, search operations continuing, two days after the disaster in Morbi, located 200 kilometers east of the river. west of Ahmedabad, the main city in the state of Gujarat where Mr. Modi is from.

The death of 134 people in the collapse of the bridge, including 47 children, has been confirmed, Rahul Tripathi, police commissioner in Morbi, told AFP on Tuesday morning.

A previous toll, which gave 137 dead following a confusion on Monday, has been revised downwards.

“We have not yet ended the search operations, because we fear that there are still victims whose relatives do not know their whereabouts and have not yet contacted us,” he explained.

The authorities estimated at 500 the number of people who celebrated the festivals of Diwali on this bridge, dating from the colonial era, when the cables which supported it suddenly dropped.

The bridge had just reopened to the public after several months of renovations.

- "Null" authorities -

On Sunday evening, according to CCTV footage, the structure swayed before giving way, throwing part of the crowd into the river.

Ilyas Khan Akbar Khan Pathan, a 33-year-old rickshaw driver, lost his wife, two children, aged six and three, his sister-in-law and two nieces in the accident.

"We found the bodies around four in the morning. My daughter Mahiya had her head in the mud, people went to get her by boat," Pathan told AFP on Tuesday.

"The police and the administration took almost two hours to launch the rescue operation (...) The authorities were useless," he lamented.

Chinese President Xi Jinping in turn sent his "deep condolences" on Tuesday to the families of the victims in a message addressed to President Droupadi Murmu and Prime Minister Modi.

- More arrests will follow -

The renovations to the bridge are said to have been carried out by the local group Oreva, whose expertise includes clocks and electric bikes.

Last Wednesday, the day of the reopening of the bridge to the public, Jaysukh Patel, president of Ajanta Manufacturing, a company of the group, had declared that the bridge could easily hold another fifteen years.

Sandeepsinh Jhala, head of the municipality of Morbi, said Monday that no certificate of compliance had been issued before it reopened to the public.

Monday evening, the police announced the arrest of nine people, charged with manslaughter, including two directors of Oreva, two subcontractors and also two sellers of access tickets to the bridge, accused of having sold too many. and thus having caused the overloading of the bridge.

Three security guards were also arrested "because they failed to manage the crowd on the bridge", senior police official Ashok Yadav told reporters on Monday night.

"As the investigation progresses, the names of other people associated with the Oreva group will also be arrested," Yadav said.

He added that a Special Investigation Team (SIT) has been formed to investigate the maintenance and structural safety aspects of the bridge.

At the Morbi crematorium on Monday, Puneet Pitroda, a 35-year-old textile trader, was mourning the death of his brother and sister-in-law.

"The authorities are fully responsible for this tragedy," he told AFP, "they allowed hundreds of people to gather on this bridge which could only accommodate a limited number."

And to add: "we will never forget this night".

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