At least 68 people were killed when a pedestrian bridge over a river in the western Indian state of Gujarat collapsed, plunging hundreds of people into the water, officials said.
Authorities said nearly 500 people including women and children were gathered on and around the bridge when the cables supporting it snapped, bringing down the entire structure into the river.
The bridge is located in Morbi around 200km west of Gujarat’s main city, Ahmedabad.
Local media quoted officials as saying that those on the bridge were performing rituals for a major religious festival when it gave way into the Machchhu river.
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 the broken structure to try to make their way to the river banks, while others swam to safety.
“Sixty deaths have been confirmed so far,” member of parliament Mohan Kundariya said.
At least 30 people had also been injured, other officials said.
State Home Minister Harsh Sanghavi said more than 150 people were on the narrow cable-stayed bridge, a tourist attraction that drew many sight-seers during the festive season, when Diwali and Chhath Puja are celebrated.
The 230-metre historic 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.
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 mobilise teams urgently for the rescue operation. He also announced compensation for those killed and injured in the accident.
Modi “has sought urgent mobilisation of teams for rescue (operations)”, his office tweeted. “He has asked that the situation be closely and continuously monitored, and (for authorities to) extend all possible help to those affected.”
The state government has formed a five-member special investigation team to conduct an investigation into the disaster.
Morbi is one of the largest ceramic manufacturing clusters in the world and accounts for more than 80% of India’s ceramic output.
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.
In 2016 the collapse of a flyover onto a busy street in the eastern city of Kolkata killed at least 26 people.
Rescue workers pulled out nearly 100 people injured from under huge concrete slabs and metal.
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