Gujarat Tragedy: Seven members of the Jadeja family returned from a temple in Morbi in Gujarat on Sunday when the children asked to be taken to a suspension bridge that had reopened after repairs.
A low-hanging, colonial-era footbridge, heaving with hundreds of tourists, suddenly collapsed around 6:20 pm.
At least 141 people were killed in the accident, one of India’s deadliest bridge collapses, according to a relative and a family friend.
“They were on the bridge when it collapsed,” said Kanaksinh Jadeja, a cousin of the two Jadeja brothers who lost their mother, wives, and four children in the disaster.
At the time, the brothers were at work at the hotel they run in the small industrial town, but they realized something was amiss when the door was locked when they returned home around 8 pm.
According to the cousin, none of the family members’ phones were working. After hearing about the collapse of the bridge, they realized something was wrong.
On Sunday, some 400 people gathered on the narrow bridge over the Machchhu River after purchasing tickets to see the landmark.
Local officials said the Oreva group, which makes clocks and electrical products, was awarded the contract this year to maintain and manage the bridge for 15 years.
According to Sandeepsinh Zala, Oreva failed to inform local authorities about reopening the 233 metre (255 yard) bridge, and had not been issued a fitness certificate.
Reuters’ calls and texts to an Oreva spokesperson went unanswered. According to an Oreva spokesperson, the bridge collapsed because too many people were trying to sway it in the middle.
Initially, the Jadeja siblings rushed to the disaster site but couldn’t locate any of their family members.
The cables and twisted remains of the structure were clung to by dozens of people. Several people tried to swim to safety. There were also many drownings, including children.
They found their mother’s body around 10 pm at Morbi’s government-run civil hospital, about a kilometre from the riverside.
Their wives and children, aged between five and ten years, were brought to the hospital later in the night, where they were identified.
On Monday morning, all seven were cremated.
Narendrasinh Jadeja, a friend of Pratapsinh Jadeja, described the Jadejas as a close-knit family living in Morbi together.
Narendrasinh, a lawyer, said, “I cannot express how angry and helpless I am.”.
Unnamed persons responsible for the renovation, maintenance, and management of the bridge have been charged with criminal offenses. There have been nine arrests.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state of Gujarat, where Morbi is located, has formed a five-member team to investigate the incident.
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