22 of 49 cables holding the British-era bridge in Morbi were corroded: SIT

Rescuers search for survivors after a suspension bridge collapsed in Morbi town in the western state of Gujarat. Photo: Reuters

Ahmedabad: The special investigation team (SIT) probing the collapse of the British-era bridge in Morbi town of Gujarat has found that at least 22 out of the 49 metal cables holding the structure were corroded.

The SIT which submitted the report to the Gujarat High Court also stated the corroded cables may have been broken before the bridge collapsed killing 135 people on October 30 last year.

The five-member SIT also raised questions on the legality of the maintenance agreement that the Morbi civic body had signed with the Oreva Group.

It said that Morbi civic body’s chief officer should not have signed the agreement with the Oreva group without obtaining prior approval from the general board of the civic body.

The agreement between the chief officer and Oreva Group was signed on March 8, 2022, and it had a clause that execution of the agreement was subject to the approval by the general body, which never got a chance to ponder over it because the issue was never raised in the ensuing meeting.

“The chief officer should not have signed the agreement without prior approval of the general board. In the previous meeting, the increase in user charges was rejected. Despite this, the chief officer signed the agreement with the clause to increase the rate,” the SIT report said.

The report further stated, “22 of the 49 cables were corroded which indicates that those wires may have already been broken before the incident. The remaining 27 wires recently broke.”

It also states that proper testing of the main cable and vertical suspenders of the bridge was not carried out before the commencement of repair work. During the repair works, old suspenders were welded with the new suspenders, which the report said changed its behaviour.

"The new deck comprised of honeycomb aluminium sheets which were supported by four aluminium channels, vis-a-vis, the old deck that was made of wooden plank and supported by 3 channels. This led to the increase in the weight of the bridge," the report said. The SIT concluded that the Oreva Group had outsourced the repairing work to a "non-competent authority".

Besides the chief officer of the Morbi civic body, the SIT also pointed out the lapse by the municipality’s president, vice president and the chairman of the executive committee. The three office bearers of the municipality confirmed the agreement by signing the ‘Rojkam’ (daily diary) on the same day.

“This indicates that they were aware of the clauses of this agreement. They should have taken up the matter of this agreement in the ensuing general body meeting for approval,” the SIT stated.

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