The cable of a suspension bridge that collapsed in Gujarat’s Morbi was rusted and the accident could have been avoided if it was repaired, the police told a local court on Tuesday while seeking custody of the accused persons in the case, reported The Indian Express.
The colonial-era bridge on the Machchu river had snapped on Sunday evening, four days after it was reopened to the public following seven months of renovation. Officials said 141 persons died and 170 were rescued, many of whom have been admitted to hospitals with injuries.
The police have arrested two managers of Oreva Group, which was given the contract to manage the bridge, as well as two ticket clerks, two contractors and three security guards on charges including culpable homicide not amounting to murder.
On Tuesday, Morbi Deputy Superintendent of Police PA Zala, who is investigating the tragedy, told the court that the cable had been rusted from where it broke and it was not oiled or greased.
“Had the cable been repaired, this incident would not have happened,” Zala said. “No documentation of what work and how it was done has been maintained. The material procured/used, if its quality was checked, remains to be probed.”
The police officer said that the two accused contractors – Prakash Parmar and Devang Parmar – were not qualified engineers, the Deccan Herald reported.
He added there was no arrangement for lifeguards in case of any mishap, which showed the gross negligence on Oreva’s part. “Without determining permissible capacity, and without government approval, the bridge was opened on October 26,” Zala said.
Assistant Public Prosecutor HS Panchal told the court that in the name of repair and maintenance work, the contractors had only replaced the wooden flooring with aluminium sheet. “It is suspected that the bridge snapped due to being overweight since wooden flooring was replaced by aluminium sheet,” he said.
Advocate GK Raval, appearing for the contractors, however, told the court that her clients were only involved in welding and electrical work. They had nothing to do with the fitness of the bridge, she argued.
Raval also submitted that the two managers – Dipak Parekh and Dinesh Dave – were also not associated with the repair work.
Parekh told the court he manages media and graphic design for the company. “It was the will of God that such an unfortunate event happened,” he said.
After both sides presented their arguments, Chief Judicial Magistrate MJ Khan sent these four accused men to police custody till November 5.
The five others suspects – Mansukh Topia, Mahadev Solanki, Alpesh Gohil, Dilip Gohil and Mukesh Chauhan – were sent to prison under judicial custody as the police did not seek their remand, reported PTI.
The bridge in Morbi municipality was given to the Oreva Group, the Gujarat-based electrical appliances and clock maker, on contract for management for 15 years in March, local body chief Sandeepsinh Zala had said. The bridge was then shut down for renovation.
Zala has alleged that bridge was reopened by the Oreva Group without getting a fitness certificate from the municipality.
The company, however, claimed that the bridge collapsed as too many persons in the mid-section of the bridge were trying to sway it from one way to the other.
The state too has shrugged off responsibility with former Deputy Chief Minister and Bharatiya Janata Party leader Nitin Patel saying that the government had no role in the renovation and reopening of the bridge. Patel added that the renovation was being handled by the Morbi administration.