At least 60 people have been killed and dozens injured when a suspension bridge in India’s western Gujarat state collapsed, plunging hundreds of people into the water below.
More than 400 people were on the bridge over the Machhu River in the town of Morbi on Sunday at the time of the collapse, local media reported.
“Sixty people have died. More than 80 have been rescued,” Brijesh Merja, a state government minister from Morbi. “Casualties may rise as rescue operations are ongoing.”
Member of parliament Mohan Kundariya confirmed the death toll.
TV footage showed dozens of people clinging onto the cables and twisted remains of the collapsed bridge as emergency teams struggled to rescue them. Some clambered up the broken structure to try to make their way to the river banks, while others swam to safety.
Press Trust of India news agency reported the bridge gave way as it could not handle the crowd on it.
The 230-metre (755-foot) bridge was built during British colonial rule in the 19th century. It had been closed for renovation for six months and was reopened for the public last week.
The bridge is in Morbi, 200km (120 miles) west of Gujarat’s main city, Ahmedabad.
Journalist Bhargav Parikh, based in Ahmedabad, told Al Jazeera that religious holidays had drawn many tourists to Gujarat. The bridge is a tourist attraction for many during the festive season when Diwali and Chhath Puja are celebrated.
Local media quoted officials as saying those on the bridge were performing rituals when it gave way.
Another journalist, Haresh Jhala, said the bridge is only 1.2 metres (4 feet) wide and it may not have been officially cleared to reopen.
“This bridge is almost 150 years old. For the last two years, it was closed to the public because it was dilapidated and needed renovation. The chief executive officer of the local authority is claiming the contractor has not taken official permission to open. The contractor was in a hurry to make money without a visibility and fitness certificate,” Jhala told Al Jazeera.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was in his home state Gujarat for a three-day visit, “sought urgent mobilisation of teams for rescue ops” according to his office. His office added that Modi had “asked that the situation be closely and continuously monitored, and extend all possible help to those affected.”
PM @narendramodi spoke to Gujarat CM @Bhupendrapbjp and other officials regarding the mishap in Morbi. He has sought urgent mobilisation of teams for rescue ops. He has asked that the situation be closely and continuously monitored, and extend all possible help to those affected.
— PMO India (@PMOIndia) October 30, 2022
Accidents from old and poorly maintained infrastructure, including bridges, are common in India.
In 2016, the collapse of a flyover onto a busy street in the eastern city of Kolkata killed 26 people.
Less than a week later, 30 people were killed when a footbridge over a river in the northeastern state of Arunachal Pradesh collapsed.
In 2006 at least 34 people died when a 150-year-old bridge collapsed on a passenger train at the railway station in the eastern state of Bihar.