At least 120 people died in India when a colonial-era pedestrian bridge spanning a river collapsed Sunday evening in the western state of Gujarat, local police said.
Authorities estimated that 500 people, including women and children, were celebrating a religious holiday on and around the bridge when the cables supporting it gave way shortly after dark.
“We have recovered 120 bodies so far. The toll will likely continue to rise as search operations continue,” said P. Dekavadiya, police chief for the town of Morbi, where the accident occurred.
He said more than 130 people had been rescued.
The bridge over the Machchhu River, located in Morbi, about 200 kilometers west of Ahmedabad, Gujarat's main city, dates back to British colonial times and had just reopened to the public after months of work.
“People were falling on top of each other when the bridge broke. They had gathered there for rituals because of the Diwali festival. There are many women and children among the victims,” said an unidentified witness quoted by local media.
Divers and military
The 233-meter-long suspension bridge was built in 1880 with materials brought from England, according to local media.
NDTV said it was reopened to the public on Wednesday after seven months of work without a security certificate being issued by authorities.
A rescue operation was launched, involving divers, boats and dozens of soldiers.
Authorities planned to cut off the river's water supply from the nearby check dam and use pumps to dry up the stream to speed up search operations.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was in Gujarat, where he is from, called for "the urgent mobilization of rescue teams", and the provision of aid for all victims, his cabinet tweeted.
Accidents on old and poorly maintained infrastructure are common in India, especially on bridges.
In 2016, the rupture of a footbridge over a busy street in the city of Kolkata (east) caused the death of at least 26 people.
In 2011 at least 32 people were killed when a bridge collapsed on which was a crowd of participants of a festival in northeast India, about 30 kilometers from the city of Darjeeling.
Less than a week later, around 30 people were killed in the rupture of a footbridge crossing a river in the state of Aruchnal Pradesh (northeast).
In 2006, at least 34 people were killed when a 150-year-old bridge collapsed on a passenger train at a station in the state of Bihar (east).