the goan I network
One person died while at least 15 onlookers were injured when an old unused iron footbridge attached to the bridge at Sanvordem collapsed in the Zuari river on Thursday evening.
What began as search operations for a person who committed suicide unexpectedly took a tragic turn, when the footbridge gave way and about 50 onlookers fell into the river.
While many swam to safety, a fire services team dispatched in search of the person who attempted suicide had to quickly focus their attention on rescuing scores of people in the river.
The exact number of persons who had fallen from the collapsed bridge was unclear and massive search operations were in progress late into the night, as various teams from the police, fire services, navy, coast guard, other emergency services and even private teams were at the site in search and rescue operations in the river.
While the deceased was identified as Basavaraj Malanavar (30) a truck driver from Bazar wada, Sanguem, 15 others were injured in the incident. The person who committed suicide was later identified as Santosh Vadar. Nine of them were administered first aid at Curchorem Community Health Centre, while six others were shifted to Hospicio at Margao for medical treatment.
Confusion and panic prevailed at the site, which quickly turned into a major incident, as people began shouting for help. The firefighters in a rescue boat quickly shifted their attention on rescuing the many onlookers who had fallen in the river, as many of them tried to swim to safety.
“From what I saw, about 20 onlookers managed to swim to safety, while some were pulled out by the fire services rescue boat. Many were still in the river struggling for life,” said Gokuldas Naik.
While many survivors were heard regretting having stood on the footbridge, others were very relieved to have survived the tragedy.
“We were standing on footbridge to see the rescue operation of a youth who had jumped into Zuari river. We were not expecting that the footbridge would collapse at that point of time,” said a visibly shaken man shortly after he swam to safety.
News of the incident spread rapidly and many panic-stricken relatives and friends of the victims as well as other onlookers from Sanguem, Quepem, Sanvordem, Cacora and surrounding areas rushed to the site.
The sudden presence of a huge number of people caused a massive jam around the bridge, hindering search and rescue operations. There was a traffic jam on the Sanvordem bridge and the road used via railway crossing. Many left their vehicles by the roadside and walked to the site of mishap.
Confronted by the gravity of the situation, the firefighters requested for additional staff and some more onlookers were pulled out from the river. Several police teams and fire brigades were pressed into service in search of others who may have fallen in the river.
On hearing the news, Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar notified the Navy and Coast Guard, while also pressing the Drishti lifeguards to assist in rescue operations at the site.
A team of 35 lifeguards, including divers, were deployed along with rescue and relief equipment, as the team was at the site by about 10.30 pm to assist in rescue operations.
The Sesa Goa company also dispatched its Launch to help the police in rescue efforts and a Launch along with some extra barge crew had left from Vasco to assist in the night navigation and rescue operation.
Generators and additional lighting systems were quickly installed at the site, to enable search, rescue and recovery operations well into the night. Two cranes were also deployed late at night to remove the collapsed portion of the footbridge to check out for bodies under the collapsed portion of the footbridge.
n At about 6 pm, the Curchorem police was informed that a youth had attempted suicide by jumping off the Sanvordem bridge and into the Zuari river. The police alerted the Curchorem fire services and a team of firefighters along with a rescue boat and equipment were dispatched to the site in search of the missing youth.
n The search operations drew in a large number of onlookers to the site and many of them stood on the bridge and the unused old footbridge, to get a better view of the search operations. Some were even seen clicking photos of the operations. “Many onlookers were on the footbridge, which was very old and weak,” said an eye-witness Gokuldas Naik.
n Suddenly and without warning, the footbridge gave way and came crashing down in the river and scores of onlookers fell into it. The collapsed portion of the footbridge had a vertical incline and many onlookers were desperately clinging on to the railings of the collapsed footbridge.
PM CALLS PARRIKAR
Prime Minister Narendra Modi also called on Chief Minister Parrikar to enquire into the tragedy at Sanvordem. Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh also mentioned in a tweet that he had contacted Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar regarding the incident. “Spoke to Goa CM Manohar Parrikar regarding the bridge collapse on Sanvordem River. Search and rescue ops have been intensified,” said the tweet.