For Ahmedabad resident Vijay Goswami and his family members, it was a close shave as they had visited the suspension bridge in Gujarat’s Morbi on Sunday afternoon, but returned halfway through the bridge out of fear after some youths from the crowd started shaking it.
A few hours later, their fears proved right when that bridge on the Machchhu river, a tourist attraction, collapsed around 6.30 pm, killing at least 60 people. Goswami said when he and his family were on the bridge, some youths started shaking the bridge intentionally, making it difficult for people to walk.
He said since he felt this act could prove dangerous, he and family returned without proceeding further on the bridge. He said he even alerted the bridge staff about it, but they were indifferent. The British era bridge had reopened for the public just four days back after remaining shut for renovation work for seven months.
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Goswami said he had gone to Morbi with family to enjoy the Diwali vacation. “There was a huge crowd on the bridge. My family and I were on the bridge when some youths started shaking it intentionally. It was impossible for people to stand without holding any support. Since I had a feeling that it may prove dangerous, my family and I came back after covering some distance on the bridge,” Goswami told reporters after reaching Ahmedabad.
“Before leaving the spot, I alerted the on-duty staff to stop people from shaking the bridge. However, they were only interested in selling tickets and told us that there is no system to control the crowd. Hours after we left, our fears turned true as the bridge eventually collapsed,” he said.
In a video that has gone viral on social media, some youngsters can be seen kicking the ropes of the bridge and shaking it to scare other tourists. Several children at the site told reporters that their family members or parents went missing after the bridge collapse.
“There was a huge crowd when the bridge suddenly collapsed. I survived because I caught hold of a hanging rope and slowly climbed up. But my father and mother are still missing,” a 10-year-old boy told reporters. Mehul Raval, who is among the survivors of the tragedy, said there were nearly 300 people on the bridge when it collapsed.
“The bridge suddenly caved in when we were on it. All the people fell down. Many people have died while many have received injuries. The bridge collapsed mainly because it was overcrowded,” Raval, who has been admitted to Morbi civil hospital, told reporters from the hospital bed.
A local resident said, “There were nearly 300 people on the bridge, which was opened a few days back for the public. Majority of the victims were children, as they came here to enjoy their Diwali vacation. Locals rushed to the spot immediately after the mishap, and pulled out many people alive.” A large number of people living in different parts of Morbi rushed to help those who fell into river after the bridge collapse.
Another resident said the incident opened the wounds of the Machchhu dam tragedy of 1979, when thousands of local residents died due to flooding. “All the residents living nearby came for the rescue and saved many. This is the first major incident for Morbi after the dam breach incident of 1979. This bridge collapsed due to overcrowding. Rescue was hampered because of low light in the evening,” he said.
Former BJP MLA of Morbi, Kanti Amrutiya, also joined the local rescue teams. “I pulled out many people alive, but many others were already dead when they were pulled out. Everyone is doing their bit to help people,” he said.