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Streets deserted as Morbi mourns the dead: ‘shut first time since 1979 floods’

At the ticket counter on the Darbargadh side of the Jhoolto Pul that collapsed, there was no signboards displaying ticket rates or instructions on the number of people allowed on the bridge at a time.

Workers at the GMERS Hospital in Morbi. (Express Photo by Sohini Ghosh)

The streets of Morbi that would be abuzz on any normal day wore a deserted look Monday as the town mourned the bridge collapse tragedy that claimed 134 lives on Sunday, even as the state-run GMERS Hospital where survivors were admitted was getting a makeover ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit on Tuesday.

At the ticket counter on the Darbargadh side of the Jhoolto Pul that collapsed, there was no signboards displaying ticket rates or instructions on the number of people allowed on the bridge at a time.

 

Water coolers being replaced in the hospital

A Navy officer who is part of the rescue team and was at the ticket counter said that according to local residents, the capacity was fixed at 160 people at a time but “nobody paid heed”.

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Medical superintendent of the state-run GMERS hospital, Dr Pradip Dudhrejia, said that the 134 deaths were prima facie ascertained to be due to “drowning”. “We did not detect any blood loss, fracture or trauma among the deceased,” Dudhrejia said.

On a street that would be abuzz with shoppers on a usual day, Nilesh Mehta, 56, a businessman, mourns the loss of a friend. “The shops were shut by business owners voluntarily,” he says.

Kishor Mehta, 60, an incense stick seller, says he was seeing the town shut for the first time after 1979 “during the floods”. “We don’t know why this happened…,” he says.

On the first floor of GMERS Hospital, where survivors were admitted in what is otherwise labelled as “paediatric ward”, rusted beds and side-tables are being painted afresh, while walls and ceilings are being rid of cobwebs, and cracked tiles and flooring being repaired.

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According to hospital staffers, the clean-up is being done ahead of PM Narendra Modi’s visit, scheduled for Tuesday.

Dayaram Parmar, 34, a chartered accountant from Morbi, said, “Before the renovation of the bridge, there were just about 300 people on the bridge at a time. Since the bridge was reopened on October 26, one could see over 500 people at a time on it.”

Parmar, who also tried to visit the bridge around 3.30 pm Sunday with family, said, “I did not go seeing the crowd. I made the right decision.”

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Ashwin Rana, 37, who was at the crematorium for the funeral of his younger brother Kapil, who died in the bridge collapse, said, “He had gone to the bridge for the first time.” Kapil’s body was discovered at 11.30 pm Sunday.

At the GMERS Hospital, patients being treated for minor injuries said no official help arrived for at least an hour.

Yashwantsinh Dodiya (22) had bought a ticket and was waiting for a friend to join when the bridge gave way. “When I was buying the tickets, the counter personnel asked me to wait for sometime saying the bridge was so crowded. In a few minutes the bridge collapsed and I was in shock. Police did not arrive for nearly an hour after the incident… by the time the ambulances started arriving, there was no one to manage the traffic.”

Naeem Shaikh (18), a daily wage worker at a gold shop, claimed that he was nearly at the middle portion of the bridge with five of his friends “having fun”, when they felt the bridge shaking violently before it snapped.

“Three people fell on top of me. One of my friends died,” says Naeem adding he survived as he could swim well.

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Naeem added that he had entrusted nearly a dozen phones, including his own, to a bystander, while he had been frantically trying to pull people out of the river. “He ran away with the phones even in such a situation,” he said.

First published on: 01-11-2022 at 04:15 IST
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