Bridge on Mumbai-Goa Highway caves in amid rain, 22 missing; CM Fadnavis orders probe
At least 22 people went missing after two state-run buses were swept away in flooded Savitri river when a British-era bridge collapsed on the Mumbai-Goa Highway near here in Raigad district but no survivors or bodies have been found after a gruelling 14-hour search and rescue operation.
Mahad: At least 22 people went missing after two state-run buses were swept away in flooded Savitri river when a British-era bridge collapsed on the Mumbai-Goa Highway near here in Raigad district but no survivors or bodies have been found after a gruelling 14-hour search and rescue operation.
The incident took place last night near Mahad, 170km from Mumbai, amid heavy rainfall. Besides the buses, several other vehicles are also believed to have fallen into the swollen river.
Two state transport corporation buses with 18 passengers and four crew have gone missing in the tragedy, Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said in a tweet.
Additional SP of Raigad district Sachin Patil said, contrary to reports, no bodies been found till now.
"That was a false alarm, no dead body has been recovered till now. That (report of recovery of bodies) was a false call," he said late in the evening.
Earlier in the day, Raigad Collector Sheetal Ugale had said bodies of two men were fished out from the river by rescuers.
Patil said 28 Marine Commandos, over 100 jawans from National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and 25 personnel from the Coast Guard were promptly pressed into search and rescue operation.
He said local divers and rafters also joined the massive operation which was called off (after 14 hours) for the night. Heavy rains hampered the search for the missing people and vehicles.
"We faced a lot of problems due to inclement weather and darkness. We will resume the search and rescue operation on a war footing tomorrow morning," the police officer said.
Another senior official said there are slim chances of finding any survivors and "but we will continue our efforts".
Fadnavis, accompanied by PWD Minister Chnadrakant Patil and opposition leader Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil of Congress, conducted an aerial survey of the area.
"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 two of its buses have not reached their destinations. Therefore, we apprehend those two buses were the same which were swept away in the river," the Collector said.
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 (Mumbai) from Rajapur.
Fadnavis, who is monitoring the situation, said, "There were two parallel bridges, one a new one and one built during the British era. The old one collapsed. The primary reason seems to be the high pressure caused due to flooding of river Savitri."
Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke to Fadnavis and was briefed about the tragedy. "The PM offered all help in rescue and relief operation," Fadnavis said.
Collector Ugale said, "Two choppers of Navy and Coast Guard were involved in the operation while two choppers of IAF have carried out reconnaissance."
The Coast Guard deployed a Chetak helicopter at about 8:15 AM. A Seaking 42C all-weather aircraft with a diving team was also pressed into service by the Navy.
The Konkan area and several parts of Maharashtra had been experiencing very heavy showers in the last two days.
According to district officials, the National Highway Authority along with an engineering consultancy had visited the old bridge in May and declared it safe.
Savitri is one of the five rivers which originate inMahabaleshwar in Satara district.
After reviewing the rescue work, Fadnavis announced at Mahad that the Government will carry out a safety audit of all old bridges in the state.
"An in-depth inquiry will be conducted into today's incident," Fadnavis said.