NK Muchhar, Additional District Magistrate, Morbi, at the bridge collapse site.
A top official in Gujarat’s Morbi district today said “time will tell” how many missing people are still not accounted for since Sunday’s bridge collapse that killed 135 people. “We’ll be operating till the last moment,” said Additional District Magistrate NK Muchhar, to a question about the plan to locate all those who fell into the river after cables of the suspension bridge snapped.
He scampered away from the camera when asked about 150-year-old cables not having been replaced by the contractor, Oreva Group, tasked with renovating the British-era bridge. Oreva, known primarily for manufacturing ‘Ajanta’ wall clocks, had outsourced the work to a little-known firm.
The company was bound by its contract to keep the bridge shut for 8-12 months for maintenance and repairs. But it was reopened in the last week of October — after just seven months — and fell on October 30. That day, there were around 500 people on it — tickets were sold for Rs 12 to 17 — against a capacity of less than 200, it is learnt.
The contractors who carried out the bridge repairs were not qualified for it, the prosecution told a court on Tuesday. “Despite that, they were given the work in 2007 and then in 2022,” the prosecutor said.
The floor of the bridge was replaced but its cables were not. The cables could not take the weight of the new flooring — four-layered aluminum sheets — and snapped, said the prosecution.
Oreva’s Managing Director Jaysukhbhai Patel, who had publicly claimed that the renovated bridge will hold up for at least eight to ten years, has not been seen since the tragedy. The company’s farmhouse in Ahmedabad is locked and abandoned, with not even a security guard in sight.
Mr Patel had signed the contract with the Morbi municipal corporation.
Victims and political parties in the Opposition have questioned why the police case doesn’t name either the top bosses of Oreva or the civic officials who signed the contract.
So far, police have only arrested some staff of the company.
The state government has formed a five-member probe committee. But a petition has been filed in the Supreme Court for a judicial investigation. It will be heard on November 14.