Connect with us

International

India PM to visit site of bridge collapse as families mourn

India PM to visit site of bridge collapse as families mourn

India’s prime minister was scheduled to visit the site in western India where a newly repaired 143-year-old suspension bridge collapsed into a river, sending hundreds plunging into the water and killing at least 134 in one of the country’s worst accidents in years.

Narendra Modi was expected to reach Morbi town in Gujarat state later Tuesday. Gujarat is Modi’s home state and he was already visiting it at the time of the accident. He said he was “deeply saddened by the tragedy” and his office announced compensation for families of the dead.

Angered and bereaved families mourned the dead as attention turned to why the pedestrian bridge, built during British colonialism in the late 1800s and touted by the state’s tourism website as an “artistic and technological marvel,” collapsed Sunday evening, and who might be responsible. The bridge had reopened just four days earlier.

Inspector-General Ashok Yadav told The Associated Press that no one was missing “as of now” according to official tally, but emergency responders and divers were still deployed for search operations early Tuesday.

“We want to be on the side of caution,” Yadav said. “Although, as of now, I can say there is no one missing but we don’t want to take any chance, and continue with searches for any missing today.”

The officer said at least 196 were rescued and all 10 of the injured were stable.

At the accident site, at least half a dozen divers searched through the dark water. They said at least two people were still believed to be missing.

“Silt, weed and mud are hampering our efforts to find missing people,” said Ankit Yadav, a diver.

In the meantime, Morbi is in mourning.

Gaffar Shah, the caretaker of the main Muslim graveyard in the town, said he helped bury 25 bodies that were brought to the burial ground after the disaster.

“I have never seen anything like this in my life,” Shah said as he sat on the graveyard’s pavement. “Entire families have been wiped out.”

Some families stood near freshly dug graves covered with marigold flowers as they prayed.

A little more than a mile away from the graveyard, at a Hindu crematorium where over a dozen were brought for their last rites, the atmosphere was equally somber. A caretaker there said they were “overwhelmed with dead bodies.” He said it was particularly painful to cremate children.

On Monday, police arrested nine people, including managers of the bridge’s operator, Oreva Group, as they began probe into the incident.

Gujarat authorities opened a case against Oreva for suspected culpable homicide, attempted culpable homicide and other violations.

In March, the local Morbi town government awarded a 15-year contract to maintain and manage the bridge to Oreva, a group of companies known mainly for making clocks, mosquito zappers and electric bikes. The same month, Oreva closed the bridge, which spans a wide section of the Machchu river, for seven months for repairs.

The bridge has been repaired several times in the past and many of its original parts have been replaced over the years.

It was reopened Oct. 26, the first day of the Gujarati New Year, which coincides with the Hindu festival season. The attraction drew hundreds of sightseers.

Sandeepsinh Zala, a Morbi official, told the Indian Express newspaper the company reopened the bridge without first obtaining a “fitness certificate.” That could not be independently verified, but officials said they were investigating.

Authorities said the structure collapsed under the weight of hundreds of people. A security video of the disaster showed it shaking violently and people trying to hold on to its cables and metal fencing before the aluminum walkway gave out and crashed into the river.

The bridge split in the middle with its walkway hanging down and its cables snapped.

It was unclear how many people were on the bridge when it collapsed and how many remained missing, but survivors said it was so densely packed that people were unable to quickly escape when its cables began to snap.

Modi was the top elected official of Gujarat for 12 years before becoming India’s prime minister in 2014. A Gujarat state government election is expected in coming months and opposition parties have demanded a thorough investigation of the accident.

The bridge collapse was Asia’s third major disaster involving large crowds in a month.

On Saturday, a Halloween crowd surge killed more than 150 people attending festivities in Itaewon, a neighborhood in Seoul, South Korea. On Oct. 1, police in Indonesia fired tear gas at a soccer match, causing a crush that killed 132 people as spectators tried to flee.

India’s infrastructure has long been marred by safety problems, and Morbi has suffered other major disasters. In 1979, an upstream dam on the Machchu river burst, sending walls of water into the city and killing hundreds of people in one of India’s biggest dam failures.

In 2001, thousands of people died in an earthquake in Gujarat. Morbi, 150 kilometers (90 miles) from the quake’s epicenter in Bhuj, suffered widespread damage. According to a report in the Times of India newspaper, the bridge that collapsed Sunday had also been severely damaged.

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

sixteen − five =

International

Guatemalan Leader, Deputy Jailed For Fraud

A Guatemalan court on Wednesday sentenced former President Otto Perez to 16 years in prison, finding him guilty of leading a massive customs fraud scheme while in office.

Perez, who was forced to resign in 2015, was found guilty of racketeering and fraud targeting the customs system, Judge Irma Valdes said as she read out the sentence.

Perez was sentenced to eight years on each count.

His former vice president Roxana Baldetti received the same sentence.

A United Nations-backed anti-corruption body revealed several scandals in Guatemala before it was shut down in 2019 by then-President Jimmy Morales after it began investigating him.

One of its key successes was uncovering a multimillion-dollar scheme to cheat Guatemala’s customs duty system, which ultimately led to Perez’s resignation.

Those involved in the scheme – known as “La Linea” (The Line) – received bribes of some $3.5 million, according to investigators, who estimate that Guatemala was defrauded out of almost $10 million in tax revenue.

After the sentence was handed down Perez, 72, told reporters, “I truly feel frustrated, I feel disappointed.”

He said he would appeal the ruling.

Sixteen other people involved in the scam were convicted during the sentencing and 11 others were acquitted.

“The ‘La Linea’ case is one of the most symbolic and is a milestone in Guatemalan history,” director of Transparency International’s local chapter, Citizen Action, Edie Cux, told AFP.

“It is important that in some way the people of Guatemala have justice and that the case does not go unpunished,” she added.

(AFP)

Continue Reading

International

Trump Organization Convicted Of Tax Fraud

Donald Trump’s real estate company was convicted on Tuesday of carrying out a 15-year-long criminal scheme to defraud tax authorities, adding to the legal woes facing the former U.S. president as he campaigns for the office again in 2024.

The Trump Organization – which operates hotels, golf courses, and other real estate around the world – was found guilty of paying personal expenses for top executives including former chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg, and issuing bonus checks to them as if they were independent contractors.

The company faces up to $1.6 million in fines after being convicted on all charges, including scheming to defraud tax authorities, conspiracy and falsifying business records. Trump was not charged in the case.

Justice Juan Merchan, who presided over the trial in state court in New York, set a sentencing date for Jan. 13.

While the fine is not expected to be material for a company of the Trump Organization’s size, the conviction could complicate its ability to do business.

Weisselberg, 75, testified as the government’s star witness as part of a plea deal that calls for a sentence of five months in jail.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, whose office prosecuted the case, called the verdict “very just.”

“The former president’s companies now stand convicted of crimes,” Bragg said in the New York courthouse after the verdict, speaking of the Trump Corporation and Trump Payroll Corporation, the two units of the Trump Organization which were convicted.

Asked if he regretted not charging Trump in the case, Bragg did not respond.

He has said that the office’s investigation into Trump is continuing.

(Reuters)

Continue Reading

International

Forbes says Elon Musk Is No Longer World’s Richest Man

Twitter owner and Tesla (TSLA.O) boss Elon Musk briefly lost his title as the world’s richest person on Wednesday, according to Forbes, following a steep drop in the value of his stake in the electric-car maker and a $44 billion bet on the social media firm.

Bernard Arnault, the chief executive of luxury brand Louis Vuitton’s parent company LVMH (LVMH.PA), and his family briefly took the title as the world’s richest, but were back at No. 2 with a personal wealth of $185.3 billion, according to Forbes.

Musk, who has held the top spot on the Forbes list since September 2021, has a net worth of $185.7 billion. Musk took over the title from Amazon.com (AMZN.O) founder Jeff Bezos.

Tesla shares, which have lost more than 47% in value since Musk made his offer to buy Twitter earlier this year, were down 2.7%.

Musk’s net worth dropped below $200 billion earlier on Nov. 8 as investors dumped Tesla’s shares on worries the top executive and largest shareholder of the world’s most valuable electric-vehicle maker is more preoccupied with Twitter.

Tesla has lost nearly half its market value and Musk’s net worth has dropped by about $70 billion since he bid for Twitter in April. Musk closed the deal for Twitter in October with $13 billion in loans and a $33.5 billion equity commitment.

Besides Tesla, Musk also heads rocket company SpaceX and Neuralink, a startup that is developing ultra-high bandwidth brain-machine interfaces to connect the human brain to computers.

Continue Reading
Advertisement

Trending