Recent claims in the Morbi bridge collapse case revealed that the Oreva group, which was responsible for the maintenance of the suspension bridge, had "temporarily" repaired the 100-year-old bridge before reopening it for the public. This was allegedly done to reopen the bridge on Gujarati New Year.
According to a letter accessed by News 18,
the Oreva group had written to the collector, citing a proposal to only "temporarily repair" the bridge in Morbi
. The private firm reportedly said in the document that it would renovate the bridge only if it is given the project permanently.
As the investigation into the incident deepens, many such claims, issues and revelations have raised concerns about the working of local administration and agencies. There were many lapses on the part of the Oreva group, as well as the Morbi local administration, which police said it will probing extensively.
Here's a look at major lapses that led to the bridge collapse in Morbi and questions one must ask to unravel the case.
1. Temporarily repair:
Citing a Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL) report, a lawyer told a court that the cables of the bridge were not replaced and only the bridge flooring was replaced. He added that forensic experts believed the bridge's main cable snapped because of the weight of the new flooring.
"...it was mentioned during the remand plea that cables of the bridge were not replaced during the renovation, and only flooring was changed...the weight of the bridge increased due to the four-layered aluminium sheets for the flooring, and the cable snapped due to that weight," the prosecutor was quoted by PTI as saying.
How did the municipality respond to this letter?
2. Contractors were not qualified:
The court was also informed that both the repairing contractors were "not qualified" to carry out construction work. It was earlier revealed that the Oreva firm had no experience in the construction business
. It specialised in making CFL bulbs, wall clocks and e-bikes
What was the reason for choosing them? How it managed to get the contract to maintain an over-100-year-old bridge?
3. No fitness certificate:
It is alleged that the Morbi bridge was reopened without a "fitness" certificate
. The bridge was closed seven months ago for renovation and was allegedly reopened five months ahead of schedule.
Sandeep Singh, Municipal Chief Officer, told CNBC-TV18 that Oreva group didn't take any clearance from the local municipal body for reopening the bridge. "We (the local municipal body) didn't do any final inspection as the private company didn't inform us that the bridge was being reopened. There was no fitness certificate or permission given by the local municipal body to reopen the bridge," he said.
Who allowed it to reopen?
4. No crowd-control measures:
The bridge is a major tourist attraction. According to News 18
, claims are that around 600 tickets were sold at Rs 17 per person
. Meanwhile, an eyewitness claimed that 500 people were on the bridge when it collapsed.
This suggested that "too many people" were on the bridge, possibly leading to the collapse. An Oreva group spokesperson reportedly said the bridge collapsed as "too many people in the mid-section of the bridge were trying to sway it from one way to the other".
The municipal chief officer said, "Earlier, only 25 people were allowed on the bridge post this latest renovation. The capacity of the bridge was supposed to increase...But the contractor didn't mention to what margin the capacity was to be increased."
Why so many people were allowed to enter the bridge at the time?
5. People shaking the old suspension bridge:
A CCTV video emerged soon
after the incident came to light, which showed people standing on the suspension bridge, with some of them seeming to deliberately shake it.
6. No regulation: An witness claimed that there was no police deployment and no one from the local administration was present at the time of the incident. Sarita Barot, who survived the bridge collapse, told CNBC-TV18 that there were only two people — the ticket issuer and the ticket checker.
7. No rescue plan: The Oreva Group did not have any rescue or emergency plan in place in case of a mishap, News 18 reported. There were hardly any boats with life jackets or diving staff posted at the bridge to rescue people.
Why was there no police deployment or rescue plan in case of an untoward incident?
8. Technical and structural flaws: Some maintenance issues were prima facie responsible for the Morbi bridge collapse, a police officer said on Monday.
What's new in the Morbi bridge collapse case?
At least 135 people died after a bridge collapsed on Gujarat's
Morbi on Sunday evening. Police said they are investigating the matter with a 360-degree approach
. Nine people were arrested on charges of "culpable homicide (not amounting to murder)".
Four of them — two managers of the OREVA Group and two sub-contractors who had repaired the bridge — were in police custody till Saturday. The lawyer said that five other arrested men, including security guards and ticket booking clerks, were sent to judicial custody.
Founded by Odhavji Raghavji Patel nearly five decades back, Oreva group manufactures wall clocks under the popular Ajanta and Orpat brands
. The Ajanta Group, with a turnover of nearly Rs 800 crore, now manufactures home and electrical appliances, electric lamps, calculators, ceramic products, and e-bikes.