Broken wires, faulty renovation caused collapse of 145-year-old bridge in India

The bridge in the town of Morbi, in Gujarat state, collapsed on Oct 30, 2022, plunging hundreds into the Machchhu river. PHOTO: REUTERS

AHMEDABAD, India – Broken and corroded wires, improper welding and changes to the walking surface of a 145-year-old hanging bridge in India contributed to its collapse in 2022 that killed 135 people, an investigation has found.

The colonial-era suspension bridge in the town of Morbi in the western state of Gujarat was packed with sightseers when it collapsed on Oct 30, plunging hundreds of people into the Machchhu river. The bridge had reopened just days before, following months of repairs.

A five-member special investigation team, formed by the state government, found that the main cables were not inspected or replaced, no load test or structural test was conducted before the reopening, and far more people were present on the bridge during the incident than its capacity would have allowed.

“Main cable of the upstream side was found broken on one side,” according to a preliminary investigation report seen by Reuters.

“Out of the 49 wires of the main cable, 22 were corroded, which indicates that those wires had been already broken before the incident. The remaining 27 wires recently broke.”

The bridge – 233m in length and 1.25m wide – had been closed for more than seven months for repairs until the week of the deadly collapse.

Closed-circuit television footage showed a group of young men taking photos while others tried to rock the bridge from side to side in the moments before the cables snapped and they plunged from the narrow walkway.

Remote video URL

Mr Sandeepsinh Zala, Morbi’s municipal chief at the time of the collapse, was suspended by the state last November. In January, the police arrested Mr Jaysukh Patel, the managing director of the Oreva Group, which had been given the contract for repairing and operating the structure.

The Oreva Group did not immediately respond to an e-mailed request for comment.

The report said the deck on the bridge was incorrectly renovated by welding old suspenders with new ones, while wooden planks were replaced by aluminium sheets.

The report said that if there had been individual wooden planks instead of an aluminium deck, their greater flexibility could have meant that there might have been fewer casualties. The report added that the main cables and suspenders had not been tested during renovation.

The report said Mr Zala did not act as per law in signing the agreement with Oreva, which is best known for making clocks and electrical products. The report blamed Oreva for giving people unrestricted access to the bridge and having insufficient security arrangements in place.

“Repair work was carried out without consulting competent technical experts. The company outsourced the repair works to a non-competent agency,” it said.

Mr Zala declined to comment because the matter was in court. REUTERS

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.