National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) teams carrying out rescue operations at the scene of Sunday's collapse of a suspension bridge over Machchu river in Morbi, Gujarat on the morning of Monday, October 31, 202
National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) teams carrying out rescue operations at the scene of Sunday's collapse of a suspension bridge over Machchu river in Morbi, Gujarat on the morning of Monday, October 31, 202Siddharaj Solanki/IANS

Morbi bridge tragedy: Nine arrested so far, say Gujarat Police

Morbi (Gujarat), October 31, 2022

Nine persons have been arrested so far in connection with the collapse of the suspension bridge over Machchu river in Morbi district of Gujarat, which claimed 141 lives on Sunday evening, police said on Monday.

Inspector General of Police, Rajkot Range, Ashok Yadav told media persons that two managers of Ajanta Manufacturing Company, two ticket booking clerks, a father-son duo of the repair workers and three security guards have been arrested so far.

The managers were identified as Dipak Parekh, Dinesh Dave, and others are Mansukh Topiya, Mahadevbhai Solanki, Prakash Parmar and his son Devang, Alpesh Gohil, Dilip Gohil, and Mukesh Chauhan.

Police will produce them before the court and seek their remand, the IG said.

On Sunday night, a criminal complaint was registered with the Morbi B-Division police station against the repair, renovation, maintenance and management agency, its managers, and others. Police had, however, not mentioned the company name in the complaint.

Ajanta Manufacturing Company has signed a lease for renovation, maintenance, and management of the cable bridge for 35 years.

Congress spokesman Pawan Khera has alleged that Ajanta has little experience in construction and renovation of such specialised bridges, and on the contrary, the company is into quartz watches, and CFL and LED bulbs manufacturing.

Khera has demanded that Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel should take moral responsibility for the tragic incident and resign.

The death toll in the tragedy rose to 141 as of Monday morning, Yadav said earlier in the day.

However, the toll according to the Minister of State for Home Harsh Sanghavi is 132, while two persons remain unaccounted for.

He also said that when the two missing persons are located, the search and rescue operations will be over.

As of Monday morning, the Morbi government hospital has released a list of 99 deceased, but has not mentioned the age of the victims.

The tragedy took place on Sunday evening when about 400 people were on the suspension bridge on the Machhu river.

Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel, who has cancelled all his programmes and rushed to Morbi to personally monitor rescue and relief operations, announced a compensation of Rs 4 lakh to the next-of-kin of the deceased and Rs 50,000 financial help to those injured in the accident.

Patel is likely to camp in Morbi till the rescue operations are over.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a compensation of Rs 2 lakh to the next of-kin of the dead from the PM's National Relief Fund, and Rs 50,000 for each of the injured.

On the state government's request, Union Home Minister Amit Shah has deployed one NDRF team from Rajkot, while Defence Minister Rajnath Singh has instructed the Army rescue teams to rush to Morbi.

A total of seven fire brigade teams were pressed into service for the rescue operations, and one State Disaster Response Force team and two NDRF teams from Gandhinagar have rushed to the spot. Local authorities have started a helpline number - 02822-243300 - on which people can seek help and information about their missing relatives.

Meanwhile, the Morbi Municipal Committee's Chief Executive Officer S. V. Zala, in a shocking revelation, said that the bridge was opened for the public after renovation without a fitness certificate from the civic body.

Zala, addressing the local media, said: "For a long period, this bridge was closed for the public... seven months ago, a private company was given contract for renovation and maintenance, and the bridge was reopened for the public on October 26 (Gujarati New year day) by the private company. The Nagar Palika has not issued a fitness certificate."

He even claimed that it is possible that the company might have got a fitness certificate from the engineering company, but it was not submitted to the municipality till date. The company, on its own and without informing the civic body, reopened the bridge for the public, he alleged.

Former Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel also told the media that normally when bridges are constructed or renovated, before opening it for public, technical assessment is must, and load bearing capacity is tested and only after this is a usage certificate issued by the authority concerned and the bridges can only then be opened for the public.

The hanging bridge was constructed by the erstwhile Morbi ruler Sir Vaghaji Thakor some 150 years ago, and its length was 233 metres and it was 4.6 feet wide.

NNN

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