Bridge Collapses in India During Construction
On Wednesday (Aug. 23), a railway bridge being built in the town of Sairang in the northeastern state of Mizoram, India, collapsed, killing at least 26 workers and injuring two.
According to reports, up to 40 workers were at the site when the bridge collapsed; however police have stated that only 28 workers were present.
The Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) said in a statement on the social media platform X, previously known as Twitter, that the mishap occurred during work on the Bhairbi-Sairang New Line Railway Project.
The NFR also stated that a “high level enquiry committee” had been set up to investigate the incident.
“Rescue workers have been able to recover 13 bodies so far. Efforts are on to recover the remaining bodies,” a state police official who declined to be identified said to Reuters.
Several other workers were feared trapped under the wreckage, the Indian news media reported. Sabyasachi De, a spokesman for the North East Frontier Railway, said that Mizoram State had taken over a rescue operation.
De added that a gantry, rather than the whole bridge, fell while the bridge was set on top of the bridge’s piers.
Additionally, India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in a statement that “all possible assistance” was being given to those affected.
Engineering News-Record reported that earlier this year, the railroad marked the completion of a 341-foot-tall pier, the tallest on the line. NFR reportedly touted the design, which featured openings in the pile cap for water to pass through.
NFR also warned in its latest construction update that the bridge work site faced poor accessibility issues during monsoons, in addition to a lack of materials and skilled labor in the area.
According to Reuters, the railway line is anticipated to be 51 kilometers (about 31.7 miles) once completed. Initially, it was anticipated to be finished in December after work began almost two years ago.
On its website, the NFR stated that the project is meant to connect Mizoram to the rest of the country, boosting “tourism and socio-economic development.”
India’s railway system is reportedly used by many millions of people every day. The government had launched high-speed trains as part of plans to modernize the network, but some are saying that it has not focused enough on safety and upgrading the aging infrastructure.
Previously, in June, at least 288 people were killed in India’s worst rail crash in more than two decades, which was reportedly blamed on signal failure.
Recent Bridge Incident
In October of last year, a colonial-era suspension bridge collapsed in the western Indian state of Gujarat, killing 135 people. The bridge collapse occurred just four days after it was reopened to the public following about seven months of renovation work.
According to the reports at the time, the suspension cables buckled on the footbridge and the structure collapsed into the river below. Visuals from the disaster site reportedly show the bridge split in the middle and the metal carriageway hanging down, with metal cables snapped.
Security footage of the bridge showed a group of young men trying to rock the suspension bridge from side to side, then showed the structure shaking violently, with people trying to hold onto its cables and green-colored metal netting before the walkway gave way and crashed into the river.
The bridge was reportedly busy over the weekend, with the Hindu festival season drawing a larger number of tourist and families to the recently reopened attraction.
According to reports, the bridge was built in 1880 and is about 232 meters (761 feet) long, touted by Gujarati as an “engineering marvel” and spanning over the Machchhu River. It was about a 10-meter drop into the water.
Brijesh Merja, a minister in the Gujarat government, reported that about 350 people were on and around the bridge at the time of the collapse. As of Oct. 31, at least 170 people had been rescued.
Teams from the national disaster response force and the Indian Army, Navy and Air Force are aiding in rescue efforts. However, operations were complicated as night fell and the river was dark.
Additionally, four cranes were deployed to pull out the bridge wreckage as rescuers search for bodies trapped underneath. Teams have also made an opening in a small dam on the river about 500 meters downstream to reduce the water flow.
Local media reports have suggested that the bridge was over capacity when it snapped. However, municipality officials told local news media that the bridge also may have been reopened without a “fitness certificate” and proper safety checks.
Local officials told Reuters that Oreva, a company which makes clocks and electrical items that was in charge of the bridge, had not informed the authorities that it would be reopened after repairs, adding that no certificate that it was fit for public use had been issued.