Tragedy in India
A 19th century pedestrian suspension bridge over the Machchu river in western Gujarat state collapsed Sunday, killing at least 132 people and sending many more tot he hospital, state minister Harsh Sanghvi said. Authorities said the historic "hanging bridge" in the Morbi district could not handle the weight of the large crowd, estimated at between 350 and 400 people. The 755-fool-long bridge, a tourist attraction built in the Victorian era, was reopened only four days ago after more than six months of renovation.
The crowds were unusually large during the Hindu festival season. Most of those killed and injured were women, teens, and elderly people, officials said. Dozens of migrant workers from the Morbi district's factories were also on the bridge when it fell, The New York Times reports. The thousands of factories in the area make ceramic tiles, bathroom products, and wall clocks.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is on a three-day visit to his home state of Gujarat, said he is "deeply saddened by the tragedy" and offered cash compensation to the families of the victims. The Gujarat state government, led by Modi's Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, said it has formed a special team to investigate the accident.
Some local officials and opposition parties said the bridge may have been reopened too soon, and without the required safety certification. Gujarat is in the midst of a hard-fought election season; Modi's party has led the state for two decades, including 12 years when Modi himself was state chief minister.
This is the third major tragedy in Asia involving large crowds in the last month, The Associated Press notes, after Saturday's deadly Halloween crowd surge in Seoul, South Korea, and the Oct. 1 stampede at a soccer game in Indonesia.