There are at least two persons missing since the collapse of a suspension bridge over a river in Gujarat’s Morbi on October 30, the state fire services chief today said.
“There may be more. There is no exact figure yet,” said the officer, NK Bishnoi, “There are many people saying their relatives are missing.” The rescuers are now deploying more scuba divers and sonar technology to track any electronic devices inside the river Machchu, he added.
At least 135 people died and 170 suffered injuries but were rescued as the 150-year-old bridge’s cables snapped less than a week of its reopening after renovation. The renovation contractor, Oreva Group, is accused of not following terms of its pact with the local municipality.
On how long the rescue and search will continue, Mr Bishnoi told NDTV, “We assess the situation multiple times a day with a brief meeting after every session. We will decide accordingly.”
Earlier, a top district official said “time will tell” how many missing people are still not accounted for since the collapse. “We’ll be operating till the last moment,” said Additional District Magistrate NK Muchhar, to a question about the plan to locate all those who fell into the river.
He scampered away from the camera when asked about the cables not having been replaced by the contractor. The contractor, Oreva, known primarily for manufacturing ‘Ajanta’ wall clocks, had outsourced the work to a little-known firm.
The contract said the bridge be closed for 8-12 months for maintenance and repairs. But it was reopened in the last week of October — after just seven months — and fell on October 30.
So far, police have only arrested nine staff members of the company.
Oreva’s Managing Director Jaysukhbhai Patel, who had publicly claimed that the renovated bridge will hold up for at least eight to ten years, has not been seen since the tragedy. The company’s farmhouse in Ahmedabad is locked and abandoned, with not even a security guard in sight.
Mr Patel had signed the contract with the Morbi municipal corporation.
Victims and political parties in the Opposition have questioned why the police case doesn’t name either the top bosses of Oreva or the civic officials who signed the contract.