Bridge that collapsed killing 135 in India had faulty cables

Ten arrests at company that renovated 19th-century structure

Indian rescuers search the Machchhu for survivors of the bridge collapse on October 31. AFP
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Old suspension cables with corroded wires were among major faults that led to the collapse of a suspension bridge that killed 135 people in India’s western state of Gujarat last year, investigators have found.

The Special Investigation Team appointed by the Gujarat government shared preliminary findings in a December report that was released by the municipal authorities at the weekend.

The 233-metre bridge, built over the Machchhu river near the town of Morbi during British rule in the 19th century, collapsed in October.

The bridge had been closed for renovations for six months and was reopened a week before the disaster.

While the capacity of the bridge was reportedly 150 people, more than 500 were on it when it collapsed, most of them women and children who had gathered to perform rituals for the Hindu festival of Chhath puja and Gujarati new year.

The renovation work was undertaken by Oreva Group, which specialises in wall clocks and electric bikes, leading to questions as to why the company had been asked to work on the bridge. Ten people, including the group’s managing director, were arrested on charges of manslaughter.

The investigators found that of one of the bridge's two main cables had corroded and nearly half of its wires “may be already broken” before the cable snapped.

People cling on to the collapsed suspension bridge in Morbi, India October 30, 2022 in this screen grab obtained from a video.  ANI/ Handout via REUTERS

Each cable was formed of seven strands, each comprising seven steel wires, the report said.

“It was observed that out of the 49 wires [of the main cable], 22 were corroded, which indicates that those wires may have already been broken before the incident. The remaining 27 wires broke recently,” the SIT said in its report.

They also found that old suspenders — steel rods that connect the cable with the platform deck — were welded with the new suspenders.

“In these types of bridges, single rod suspenders should be used to bear the load,” the report said.

While the investigators said that the actual capacity of the bridge would be confirmed by laboratory reports, in their preliminary report, they found that the wooden planks were replaced with rigid aluminium deck, possibly adding weight to the bridge, causing higher casualties.

“The aluminium honeycomb panels were fixed without any gap in between, which makes the deck less flexible to deform,” the SIT said.

Updated: February 20, 2023, 9:31 AM