The script was a familiar one. An old bridge—100 years, no less, and built during the British era—collapses in heavy rains, lives are lost and mud-slinging between the government and opposition starts.The bridge on Savitri river collapsed at around 11.30pm on Tuesday due to heavy rains near Mahad in Raigad district, Maharashtra, and more than 20 persons have been feared dead. Did the failure of the state government to seal the 100-year-old bridge contribute to the loss of lives?
According to Raigad district administration, at least eight vehicles, including two state transport corporation buses with 22 persons on board, are feared to have been swept away during the bridge collapse. The two buses were en route to Mumbai from Konkan region and had 18 passengers, two drivers and two conductors on board. Death toll is likely to increase as reports have emerged that at least one SUV with seven passengers on board may also have drowned when the bridge collapsed.
Leader of Opposition Radha Krishna Vikhe Patil and senior NCP leader Ajit Pawar lashed out at the government for its failure to close down the bridge for vehicles. Pawar demanded that state PWD minister Chandrakant Patil and other officials should be booked under Section 302 of IPC for this tragedy. Former chief minister Prithviraj Chavan demanded a judicial probe into how the bridge was given a security clearance in May following an audit.
Two teams of NDRF have reached the site with six boats to conduct rescue operations. A team of naval divers and a Chetan helicopter of Coast Guard has been pressed into service to locate the drowned vehicles. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has assured the Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis of all possible assistance.
Patil and guardian minister of Raigad, Prakash Mehta, rushed to Mahad as the news reached Mumbai. Fadnavis tweeted that there are two parallel bridges and it was the old bridge that collapsed. District collector Sheetal Ugale and Superintendent of Police Suvez Haque are camping at the accident site.
Traffic on Mumbai-Goa NH 17 was hampered by the tragedy. The new bridge over the river is bearing the brunt of the heavy traffic now.
Incessant rain has caused havoc in Maharashtra, with eight people drowning to death in Nashik, Sindhudurg and Ratnagiri districts.