The 143-year-old history of the Morbi Bridge in Gujarat that collapsed killing 130 people


Disaster struck a century-old suspension bridge on Machchhu river in Gujarat’s Morbi city on Sunday evening.

Around 6.30 pm on Sunday when the bridge (also known as Julto Pul) was crowded with women and several children, it snapped, plunging tourists into the water below. As per the latest reports, 130 people have died while the Army, Navy, Air Force, National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), and Fire Brigade officials continue their search-and-rescue operations. “The rescue operation is still underway. Indian Army had reached here around 3 at night. We are trying to recover the bodies. Teams of NDRF are also carrying out rescue operations,” said Major Gaurav of the Indian Army.

Gujarat Minister of State for Home Harsh Sanghavi told reporters at Morbi, around 300 km from the state capital, that the state government has formed a committee to probe the collapse.

Eyewitnesses recounting the horror to news agency PTI said that some people were seen jumping on the bridge and pulling its big wires. After the collapse, all that remained of the bridge was part of the metal carriageway hanging down from one end into the dark water, its thick cables snapped in places.

Shortly after the accident, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced an ex-gratia of Rs 2 lakh for the next of kin of each of those who lost their lives in the incident. The injured persons would be given an amount of Rs 50,000.

Incidentally, the bridge had just reopened to the public on 26 October — Gujarati New Year Day, after nearly six months of renovation. Let’s take a closer look at the history of the 230-metre bridge.

‘Historic’ hanging bridge

The 230-metre long suspension bridge situated on Machchhu river in Gujarat’s Morbi city is today a tourist attraction, drawing hundreds of people on a daily basis.

It is said that the bridge, built on same the lines of the Ram and Lakshman Jhulas on the Ganga in Uttarakhand, was constructed by Morbi’s former ruler Sir Waghji Thakor 143 years ago.

He was inspired by colonial influence and decided to construct the bridge, as an “artistic and technological marvel” of that period, to connect Darbargadh Palace with Nazarbag Palace (the residences of the then royalty).

The hanging bridge was first inaugurated on 20 February 1879, by then-Mumbai governor Richard Temple. All the material came from England and cost Rs 3.5 lakh at that time to construct the bridge.

The bridge had suffered severe damage in the 2001 earthquake.

Closed for renovations

The famous suspension bridge had shut down for six months for renovations and only reopened on 26 October — five days before the incident took place.

According to Chief Officer of Morbi Municipality Sandeepsinh Zala, the bridge had been given to Oreva company for operation and maintenance for 15 years. In March, they shut down the bridge for renovation at a cost of Rs 2 crore.

It was opened to the public last Wednesday but hadn’t been issued any fitness certificate after the renovation work by the authorities.

“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 about this,” Zala was quoted as saying by NDTV.

Overcrowded bridge?

Eyewitnesses recount the moment when the bridge snapped, taking hundreds to their deaths. The bridge was overcrowded with tourists on account of it being a Sunday and the long Diwali week.

However, some people stated that a few youths started shaking the bridge intentionally, making it difficult for people to walk. Ahmedabad resident Vijay Goswami, who had visited the site earlier in the day, told PTI that he had alerted the bridge staff about the incident, but they were indifferent.

“There was a huge crowd on the bridge. My family and I were on the bridge when some youths started shaking it intentionally. It was impossible for people to stand without holding any support. Since I had a feeling that it may prove dangerous, my family and I came back after covering some distance on the bridge,” Goswami told reporters after reaching Ahmedabad.

“Before leaving the spot, I alerted the on-duty staff to stop people from shaking the bridge. However, they were only interested in selling tickets and told us that there is no system to control the crowd. Hours after we left, our fears turned true as the bridge eventually collapsed,” he said.

With inputs from agencies

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The 143-year-old history of the Morbi Bridge in Gujarat that collapsed killing 130 people
The 143-year-old history of the Morbi Bridge in Gujarat that collapsed killing 130 people
ASE News
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