India: At least 141 killed as newly renovated suspension bridge collapses in Gujarat

India: At least 141 killed as newly renovated suspension bridge collapses in Gujarat

In one of the worst accidents in India in the past decade, at least 141 people were killed and others critically injured when a newly-renovated suspension bridge in the western Gujarat state collapsed on Sunday, officials said.

More than 170 survivors were pulled from the river, and teams from the army, navy and air force were searching for others still missing, said Jigar Khunt, an information department official in Gujarat.

The death toll is expected to rise even further.

The bridge gave way as it could not handle the number of people on it, officials told PTI.

Only last week, the bridge had been reopened to the public following months of renovation work, reports say.

Hundreds of people were said to be on the bridge over the Machhu River in the town of Morbi at the time of the collapse. Local TV channel Zee News put the number at 400.

Footage broadcast by the TV channel showed dozens of people clinging onto the cables of the collapsed bridge as emergency teams struggled to rescue them.

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 colonial-era bridge was built in the 19th century. It had been closed for six months before being reopened for the public last week following its renovation.

On Monday, Indian police arrested nine people -- including managerial staff and contractors -- for failing to regulate crowds before the bridge crumpled.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is in his home state Gujarat for a three-day visit, said he was “deeply saddened by the tragedy”.

His office announced compensation to the families of the dead and urged for speedy rescue efforts.

The bridge collapse is Asia’s third major disaster involving large crowds in a month.

On Saturday, a Halloween crowd surge killed more than 150 mostly young people who attended festivities in Itaewon, a neighbourhood in the South Korean capital Seoul.

On 1 October, police in Indonesia fired tear gas at a football match, causing a crush that killed 132 people as spectators tried to flee.