A footbridge packed with sightseers enjoying holiday festivities collapsed and plunged them into the river below in Gujarat’s Morbi town on Sunday, killing more than 130 people. Soon after the bridge snapped, several rescue teams were rushed to the site. But, even before they could reach the spot, a group of locals jumped into the river and saved many lives.
Jignesh Laljibhai and his group of trainees who he coaches for recruitment in the Army were crossing the area when he noticed a huge crowd. As soon as he saw the collapsed bridge, he jumped into action.
“I asked my boys to go up to the bridge. Those who could swim, jumped into the rivers, and those who couldn’t, threw ropes in the rivers. Meanwhile, I and one of my trainees crossed the bridge and reached the collapse site,” he said.
“We saved somewhere between eighty to ninety lives, including children,” said one of the men.
Authorities said more than 400 people were on and around the colonial-era suspension bridge at the time of the collapse.
The bridge, which had been closed for repairs for months, reopened only four days ahead of the accident.
A company which makes clocks and electrical items, Oreva, that was in charge of the bridge, had not informed the authorities that it would be reopened last week after repairs, adding that no certificate that it was fit for public use had been issued, a local official told NDTV.
“It was a government tender. Oreva group was supposed to give its renovation details and get a quality check before opening the bridge. But it did not do so. The government was not aware of this,” Morbi municipal agency chief Sandipsinh Zala said.
The bridge is 1.25 metres (4 feet) wide and spans 233 metres (255 yards) and connected the Darbargadh Palace heritage hotel and the town.