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Entire families left scarred by India bridge collapse tragedy

NEW DELHI - Last week was an extended holiday for many families in Gujarat, with Deepavali and Bestu Varas – the Gujarati New Year – marking festivities. Schools were shut and kids, as they would anywhere, were yearning for fun-filled outings.

On Sunday, Mr Pratap Singh Jadeja’s pregnant wife took their two children to Julto Pul, a historic suspension bridge in Morbi which serves as a popular tourist attraction. They were accompanied by Mr Pratap’s brother’s wife and two children.

The 143-year-old bridge had been reopened on Oct 26 following a renovation, and it promised to be an enjoyable trip for the kids. However, what was meant to be an evening of joy took a tragic turn for the Jadeja family, ending in the death of seven of its members.

The Jadejas from Gujarat’s Jamnagar district were among the 135 killed when the bridge collapsed, sending an estimated 400-plus visitors into the Machchhu river on Sunday evening.

“Since Pratap and Pradyuman (Pratap’s brother) were at work, they didn’t join their wives and children. They are now the only survivors in their family,” relative Kanak Sinh told The Indian Express newspaper.

Pictures shared online showed the bodies being brought in on a trolley pulled by a tractor in Jaliya Devani village on Monday, with many locals gathered for the last rites.

Several other families are also coping with multiple deaths. They include as many as 12 relatives of Mr Mohanbhai Kalyanji Kundariya, a Bharatiya Janata Party MP from Rajkot, a city in Gujarat.

Mr Sundarji Bora – the brother of Mr Magan Bora, who is married to Mr Kundariya’s sister Mukta – lost four daughters, three sons-in-law and five grandchildren in the tragedy. Mr Bhavesh Bhindi, a 40-year-old jeweller, his wife and two children also perished in the collapse.

Like many others, Mr Chirag Mucchadiya, 20, and his brothers Dharmik, 17, and Chetan, 15, had also gone to the bridge for an evening of fun, but never returned home.

The 143-year-old bridge had been reopened on Oct 26 after being renovated, when it collapsed. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

 

Their father Rajesh ended up making the rounds at local hospitals later in the night to look for his sons’ bodies. According to a BBC report, he found the bodies of Dharmik and Mr Chirag at Morbi Civil Hospital at 11 pm, followed by Chetan’s body four hours later.

“We’ve lost all our sons, our everything,” their mother Kantaben told BBC. “What do we have now? My husband and I are all alone.”

Morbi was the site of another major tragedy in 1979 when a dam burst, sending a wall of water from the Machchhu river through the town, killing anywhere between 1,800 and 25,000 people.

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