On 30 October 2022, a pedestrian suspension bridge over the Machchhu River in the city of Morbi in Gujarat, India, collapsed and caused deaths of at least 135 people and injuries to more than 180 others. The 19th-century bridge had reopened just five days earlier, just in time for Diwali and the Gujarati New Year, after a lengthy closure for repairs.
Morbi bridge was a very old suspension bridge built during British rule in sometime around 1880. However, the 141 year old bridge stood the test of time to this date until it collapsed owing to an alleged renovation and repair that occurred for a few months before it was reopened.
Cause of Bridge Collapse
There are allegations that the people of the bridge were shaking the bridge before the main cable gave way. The name of the bridge is “Jhulta pul” and as the name suggests, it is a hanging bridge, which is susceptible to shaking. The only way a suspension bridge collapses is that it is overcrowded.
The bridge, having a capacity of not more than 125 people, had accommodated more than 500 people at the time it collapsed. Hence overcrowding may be considered a reason behind the collapse of Morbi bridge. There are questions arising on the work of renovations as the bridge had stood the test of time, but collapsed just after renovation.
Alleged Repairing Work by Oreva
The task for the repairing work of the bridge was given to Oreva, a renowned clock and watch manufacturing company. However, it is alleged that there were no tenders floated for the purpose, and Oreva was secretly given the deal by the Morbi Municipality, which is the present owner of the bridge. More allegations were made on why a watch-making company was given the responsibility of construction and repairing work in a bridge.
Oreva again re-allotted the task to another private firm, “Dev Prakash Solutions”, who did nothing to repair the main bridge except paint and increase the load of the bridge walkway. There are more allegations that the bridge was planned to be opened not before December this year, but the opening was pre-poned due to Diwali, and it was opened without testing or a fitness certificate.
Outcome of the Disaster
Though a number of people were rescued at the time of the disaster, it is also alleged that there were no boats, nor were there any rescuers nearby, who could act in time of need. The death of many people could have been averted if the rescue mission was strong in the area. More than 180 people are still injured, of which many are in serious condition.
The Gujarat police made 9 arrests, all from the Oreva company, including 2 managers in Oreva, 2 ticket clerks, 2 contractors and 3 hired security guards. The sample materials of the bridge are collected and sent to the forensic lab for detailed investigation. More raids were made in the Dev Prakash Solutions’ office. However, the main heads, the Oreva Group owner, Jaisukhbhai Patel, and civic authorities are still not arrested.
Chief officer of Morbi municipality Sandeepsinh Zala, after being suspended, had admitted that the bridge was reopened without a fitness certificate. A senior government official said on the condition of anonymity that some procedural lapses were found in the agreement between the firm and civic authorities.
Gujarat Polls and Impact of Bridge Collapse on the Polls
The blame game between the ruling party and the opposition will continue, but as of present, both the bigger oppositions, the Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party have stayed away from politicizing the disaster. Our Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, has expressed deep condolences for those who died in the accident. Compensation of 4 lakh was announced for the families of those who died, and 50,000 for those who were injured.
The Gujarat polls have been announced in the first week of December. The ruling party, BJP, will look to maintain a strong position in the state, while the opposition of both Congress and AAP, will try to gain some ground in Gujarat. The bridge collapse had exposed a number of loopholes in the Gujarat administration, and the opposition will try to bring it to the public. While questions will be raised from time to time, it won’t undo what became one of the largest bridge collapses in the modern world.
Written by – Himadri Paul