More than 80 people dead after suspension bridge collapses into river in India

Children were among those killed when a suspension bridge collapsed into a river in India's western Gujarat state, leaving dozens of survivors clinging to cables while awaiting rescue.

Authorities yet to identify cause of collapse in Gujarat state as rescue effort continues

Dozens dead after suspension bridge collapses in western India

5 months ago
Duration 1:31
A suspension bridge over a river in the western Indian state of Gujarat collapsed Sunday, plunging hundreds of people into the water. Ishan Garg reports from New Delhi.

At least 81 people were killed in the western Indian state of Gujarat on Sunday when a footbridge packed with sightseers enjoying holiday festivities collapsed and plunged them into the river below.

Authorities said more than 400 people were on or around the suspension bridge over the Machhu River in the town of Morbi at the time of the collapse on Sunday evening. The state's Home Minister Harsh Sanghavi said more than 150 people were on the bridge itself.

TV footage showed dozens of people clinging onto the cables and twisted remains of the collapsed bridge as emergency teams struggled to rescue them. Some clambered up them to try to make their way to the river banks, while others swam to safety.

Atul Prajapati, a medical officer at the state hospital near the disaster site, said: "We have found 81 bodies and the final rites process has begun."

Dozens of people were also injured, officials said.

Rescuers on boats search the Machhu River next to a cable bridge that collapsed Sunday in the town of Morbi, in the western Indian state of Gujarat. (Rajesh Ambaliya/The Associated Press)

Bridge an attraction for tourists

The 230-metre historic bridge is a tourist attraction that draws many sight-seers during the festive season, when Diwali and Chhath Puja are celebrated. Officials said the victims are mostly local people who were visiting the bridge for recreational purposes.

The bridge was built during British rule in the 19th century. It had been closed for renovation for six months and was reopened for the public last week.

Opposition party leaders alleged that the government had not conducted a thorough technical assessment and load bearing capacity before it was opened to the public.

This image from video shows a crowd and ambulance outside a hospital in Morbi, where survivors of the bridge collapse were taken Sunday. (K K Productions/The Associated Press)

Prateek Vasava, who swam to the river bank after falling from the bridge, told local news channel 24 Hours that he witnessed several children fall into the river.

"I wanted to pull some of them along with me but they had drowned or got swept away," he said.

The bridge collapsed in just a few seconds, he said.

Another witness told Reuters he believed the bridge was overloaded with people, causing the structure to fail.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is in his home state Gujarat for a three-day visit, said he had directed the state chief minister to mobilize teams urgently for the rescue operation.

WATCH | Suspension bridge recently reopened before deadly collapse: 

Dozens dead after pedestrian bridge collapses in western India

5 months ago
Duration 1:58
At least 81 people are dead in western India after a century-old footbridge packed with sightseers collapsed, sending them into the river below.

Fifty navy and 30 air force personnel were called in to help, along with a national disaster management team to trace missing people, the government said in a statement. The state government has formed a five-member special investigation team to conduct an investigation into the disaster.

The incident comes ahead of elections in Gujarat, which are expected to be held by the year-end with the current term of the Modi's ruling party's term ending in February, 2023.