At least 130 dead in India bridge collapse

At least 130 people were killed in India after a colonial-era pedestrian bridge collapsed, sending scores of people tumbling into the river below, police said Monday.

Authorities said nearly 500 people, including women and children, were celebrating a religious festival on and around the nearly 150-year-old suspension bridge in Morbi in western India when cables supporting it snapped soon after dark on Sunday.

The bridge, which had only recently re-opened after repairs, is located in Morbi around 200km west of Gujarat's main city, Ahmedabad.

Local media quoted officials as saying that those on the bridge were performing rituals for a major religious festival when it gave way into the Machchhu river.

Local media showing videos - which could not be independently verified - of people desperately clinging to the remains of the structure and trying to swim to safety in the dark.

The 233m British-era suspension bridge was only reopened to the public on Wednesday, after seven months of repairs.

Broadcaster NDTV reported that the bridge reopened despite not having a safety certificate, and that video footage from Saturday showed it swaying.

Authorities launched a rescue operation following the collapse, with boats and divers deployed to search for missing people.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was touring his home state of Gujarat, announced compensation for those killed and injured in the accident.

Modi "sought urgent mobilisation of teams for rescue (operations)", his office tweeted.

"He has asked that the situation be closely and continuously monitored, and (for authorities to) extend all possible help to those affected." The Gujarat government on its official website describes the bridge as "an engineering marvel built at the turn of the century".

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 at least 26 people. Rescue workers pulled out nearly 100 people injured from under huge concrete slabs and metal.

In 2011, at least 32 people are killed when a bridge packed with festival crowds collapsed in northeast India, about 30km from the hill town of Darjeeling.

Less than a week later, around 30 people were killed when a footbridge over a river in the north-eastern state of Arunachal Pradesh collapsed.

In 2006, at least 34 people were killed when a 150-year-old bridge collapsed on a passenger train in the railway station in the eastern state of Bihar. AFP

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