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At least 81 people died in the western Indian state of Gujarat on Sunday when a footbridge filled with tourists enjoying holiday festivities collapsed into a river.
Dozens of people clung to for cables and the mangled remains of a bridge across the Machkha River in the city of Morbi, while rescuers tried to save them. Several children were among the victims.
Prateik Vasawa, who swam to the river bank after falling off the bridge, told the 24 Hours news channel that he witnessed several children fall into the river.
“I wanted to save at least some of them them, but they drowned or were swept away by the current of the river, — he said.
The bridge collapsed in just seconds, he said.
Atul Prajapati, a medical worker at a public hospital near the crash site, said 81 bodies had already been found.
According to official figures, dozens of people were injured.
Authorities said more than 400 people were on and around the colonial-era suspension bridge at the time of the collapse. State Home Minister Harsh Sanghavi said more than 150 people were on the bridge itself.
The bridge attracted many tourists, celebrating Diwali, or the festival of lights, and the Chhath Puja holidays.
“Many children enjoyed Diwali and came here as tourists. They all fell on top of each other. Bridge collapsed due to overload”, — said one of the witnesses, who identified himself as Shukram.
The 230-meter bridge was built during British rule in the 19th century. It was closed for repairs for six months and was reopened to the public last week.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is in in his home state of Gujarat on a three-day visit, said he had instructed the chief minister of the state to urgently mobilize teams for the rescue operation.
A government statement said 50 naval and 30 air units were called in to help with the National Disaster Relief Service to find the missing persons. A team of five people was assigned to investigate the disaster.
after the bridge was opened to the public.
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