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KUWAIT CITY, Oct 31, (Agencies): Kuwait’s Foreign Ministry expressed its sympathies and solidarity with India on victims of a bridge collapse in the state of Gujarat. The collapse of the cable bridge, stretching across the Machchu river, killed at least 133 people and injured dozens more while others remain missing. In a statement, the ministry expressed the condolences of Kuwait to the families of victims, wishing those injured a speedy recovery.
Military teams were searching Monday for people missing after a 143-year-old suspension bridge collapsed into a river Sunday in the western Indian state of Gujarat, sending hundreds plunging into the water and killing at least 133 in one of the country’s worst accidents in years. As families mourned the dead, attention was turning to why the bridge, built by the British in the late 1800s and touted as an “engineering marvel,” collapsed and who might be responsible. The local government had awarded a 15-year contract to maintain and manage the bridge to a Morbi-based company, Ajanta Manufacturing Pvt. Ltd., mainly known for making clocks, mosquito racquets and electric bikes.
It reopened the bridge, which spans a wide section of the Machchu river, on Oct. 26. That’s the first day of the Gujarati New Year, which coincides with the Hindu festival season, and the newly reopened attraction drew hundreds of sightseers. Sandeepsinh Zala, a Morbi city official, told the Indian Express newspaper the company had reopened the bridge without first obtaining a “fitness certificate.”
That claim could not be independently verified, but the state government said it had formed a special team to investigate the disaster. Authorities said the structure collapsed under the weight of hundreds of people. Security footage of the disaster showed bridge shaking violently and people trying to keep hold of its cables and green-colored metal fencing before the aluminum walkway gave way and crashed into the river. Visuals from the disaster site showed the bridge split in the middle and the metal walkway hanging down, its cables snapped in places. At least 177 survivors were pulled from the river and teams from the army, navy and air force were looking for others still missing, said Jigar Khunt, an information department official in Gujarat.
State minister Harsh Sanghvi told reporters that 133 people were confirmed dead and many others were admitted to hospitals in critical condition. Emergency responders and rescuers worked overnight to search for the survivors. Most of the victims were teens, women and older people, he said. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, visiting his home state of Gujarat, said he was “deeply saddened by the tragedy.” His office announced compensation for families of the dead and called for speedy rescue efforts. “Rarely in my life, would I have experienced such pain,” Modi said during a public event in the state on Monday. Modi was the top elected official of Gujarat for 12 years before becoming India’s prime minister in 2014. A Gujarat state government election is expected in coming months and opposition parties have demanded an investigation into the collapse.