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2 dead, many missing as bridge collapses in Maha

Rescuers fished out bodies of two men from the river and an intense search is on to trace those missing, Raigad Collector Sheetal Ugale said at the mishap spot, 170 km from Mumbai.

Two state transport buses with 18 passengers and four crew members (two drivers and two conductors) have gone missing in the tragedy that occurred late last night, Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said in a tweet. Fadnavis, accompanied by state PWD Minister Chandrakant Patil and opposition leader Radhakrishna Vikhe Pati, conducted an aerial survey of the area to review the search and rescue operations in progress.

“An eyewitness informed us that he saw a few buses, cars and vehicles being swept away in the river. After corroborating his statement with the State Road Transport Corporation, we found that two of its buses have not reached their destinations and therefore we apprehend that those two buses were the same which were swept away in the river,” the district collector said. Unconfirmed reports, quoting eyewitnesses, said some cars have also been washed off after the bridge collapsed. 

According to district officials, one of the buses was proceeding to Mumbai from Jaigad in Raigad, and the other was on its way to Borivali from Rajapur. Four teams of NDRF, comprising of 40 deep divers each has joined the Coast Guard and other agencies engaged in rescue and relief operations.

“As soon as we got information about the tragic incident, we dispatched two teams from Pune and two teams from Mumbai who are searching for missing persons in the swollen river,” an NDRF official monitoring the rescue operations, said.

“Also, we have kept two teams in Mumbai and two teams in Pune in standby mode, and they would be roped in as and when needed,” he said.

Fadnavis, who is monitoring the situation, said, “There were two parallel bridges; one is a new bridge and one constructed during the British era. The old one collapsed.” 

“The primary reason seems to be the high pressure caused due to flooding of river Savitri because of heavy rains in a catchment of Mahabaleshwar,” he said. The old bridge, located 4 km from Mahad is said to have been constructed in 1928 while the new bridge came up in 2001.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke to Fadnavis and was briefed about the tragedy. “The PM offered all help in rescue and relief operations,” Fadnavis said. Terming it as one of the biggest search and rescue efforts so far in the country, Ugale said, “Two choppers of Navy and Coast Guard are involved in the operation while two choppers of IAF have carried out reconnaissance.”

The Coast Guard had deployed a Chetak helicopter at about 8:15 AM to carry out the search for people who were swept away. A Seaking 42C all-weather aircraft with a diving team has been launched by the Navy. A Seaking 42B helicopter on another mission was also diverted to the area for the search. According to locals, rain and darkness had hampered rescue work, which began this morning, almost 12 hours after the bridge collapse.

Mahabaleshwar, Mahad and Poladpur in Konkan have been experiencing very heavy showers in the last two days recording 410 mm, 222 mm and 184 mm rainfall respectively flooding many localities.
According to district officials, the National Highway Authority along with an engineering consultancy had visited the old bridge in May this year and had declared it safe. There are 36 bridges in Raigad district on Mumbai-Konkan and Goa national highway.
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