Morbi Tragedy: NDRF Continues Search For Missing, More Arrests Likely
Meanwhile, two lawyer's associations in Gujarat said that they passed a resolution to not represent the accused in the Morbi case from Oreva.
Rescue operations continued in Morbi for the third day on Wednesday as teams searched for missing people who might have fallen in the Machchu river as the bridge collapsed on Sunday killing at least 135 people. Rescuers had said that the numbers could increase if more bodies were found.
Prasanna Kumar, the commandant of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) team, said that it was likely that two or three people were still missing.
The police have said that while nine people have been arrested so far, more arrests are likely. Rahul Tripathi, Morbi SP, told ANI, "Till now, 9 people have been arrested, out of which 4 are in police custody. We are assessing who else was involved in this tragedy & what went wrong at what stage. It's possible that more arrests will be made. We are doing a thorough probe."
Gujarat chief minister Bhupendra Patel, meanwhile, attended a prayer event held in Ahmedabad for the victims of the tragedy. Patel tweeted about attending the event. A rough English translation of his tweet, written in Gujarati, said, "Joined the peace prayer organised in Ahmedabad to pray for the peace of souls who died in the Morbi tragedy and for God to give strength to their families to bear this trauma and paid heartfelt tributes to the deceased. In this hour of grief, all of Gujarat stands with the families of the deceased."
This comes a day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited the site of the accident and the Morbi civil hospital where those injured in the accident are being treated.
What the prosecutor told court
A local court sent four people from Oreva, the company that had allegedly been given the tender to repair the bridge, to police custody for four days, PTI reported. Two Oreva managers Deepak Parekh and Dineshbhai Mahasukhrai Dave and contractors Prakashbhai Laljibhai Parmar and Devangbhai Prakashbhai Parmar were the four sent to police custody.
The police told the court that the bridge collapsed because the maintenance work had not been done properly. The Indian Express reported Morbi deputy superintendent of police PA Zala as saying, "The bridge was on a cable, and no oiling or greasing of the cable was done. From where the cable broke, the cable was rusted. Had the cable been repaired, this incident would not have happened. No documentation of what work and how it was done has been maintained. The material procured/used, if its quality was checked, remains to be probed."
The chief judicial magistrate MJ Khan remanded five others, who are ticket vendors and security personnel, in judicial custody. Public prosecutor HS Panchal told ANI, "Prima facie, FSL officer says that it was an old cable. IO say that only the flooring of the bridge and not the cables were changed and oiling-greasing wasn't done."
The tragedy has raised several questions Oreva's role in the renovation of the bridge and how the bridge was reopened without permission from authorities. Local authorities in Morbi said that the company did not have permission to reopen the bridge, which had been shut for seven months for repair. The bridge, called Julto Pul, had been reopened only four days before the accident occurred. Gujarat deputy chief minister Nitin Patel told the media that the state government had nothing to do with the repairs.
Meanwhile, two lawyer's associations in Gujarat — the Morbi Bar Association and the Rajkot Bar Association — have said that they will not represent the nine accused from Oreva in the Morbi case. Morbi Bar Association's AC Prajapati told ANI, "Nine accused in the Morbi Bridge Collapse have been arrested. Morbi Bar Association and Rajkot Bar Association have decided to not take their case and represent them. Both the Bar Associations have passed this resolution."
Opposition attacks BJP
Opposition leaders have criticised the BJP government both in the state and at the Centre over the tragedy. Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge said that a time-bound judicial inquiry needed to be carried out. He said on Twitter, "Accountability must be set for the loss of 135 lives in the Morbi Bridge Collapse. The conduct of the municipality, private firm and officials must be thoroughly investigated."
ANI quoted Kharge as saying at an event in Telangana, "PM Modi is touring Gujarat for the last six days. Polls schedule for Himachal Pradesh is released but the poll schedule for Gujarat isn't released as PM Modi has to inaugurate many more bridges there like the one that collapsed in Morbi."
AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi said that the government must find out and hold accountable the people who were responsible for the tragedy. ANI quoted him as saying, "This is a painful accident, we hope that PM Modi and Gujarat govt will give justice to the families of those who lost their lives. Government should tell who is responsible for the death of so many people."
Even as the Enforcement Directorate (ED) summoned Jharkhand chief minister Hemant Soren on Wednesday, Jharkhand Congress chief Rajesh Thakur told ANI, "ED should've first gone to Morbi."
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