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45 people presumed dead in Chambal bridge collapse

45 people presumed dead in Chambal bridge collapse

Kota: The number of people presumed killed when a bridge collapsed in Chambal rose to at least 45 on Saturday, an official said, as rescue divers struggled to recover bodies pinned under water.

Dozens of labourers fell into the water late Thursday when the bridge on which they were working gave way over the Chambal river on the outskirts of the city of Kota in Rajasthan.

“At least 45 people are presumed to have died in the bridge collapse," senior police official Rajeev Dasot told AFP, raising the estimated death toll from 17.

“The total death tally should be between 45 and 50," Dasot said, adding another four people were in hospital.

Some of the victims were migrant workers.

Police identified the two companies building the bridge as South Korea’s Hyundai Engineering and Gammon India.

Two senior project managers, including a South Korean national, have been arrested on accusations of culpable homicide, Dasot said.

Rescue workers were using cranes and gas cutters to slice through the wrecked bridge which was partially submerged.

Two teams of naval divers were helping retrieve bodies from the deep waters and authorities were considering demolishing the remaining portion of the structure.

Dasot said one of the men arrested was working as deputy project manager for Gammon while the South Korean was employed as chief project officer for Hyundai.

“We have taken the most stringent action possible under Indian law," said Dasot.

There was no immediate statement by either company on the accident.

National highway authority and the state government have launched an inquiry into the accident.

The Press Trust of India quoted federal junior transport minister Mahadeo Singh Khandela as saying construction of the bridge was almost a year behind schedule.

Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot told reporters the government was taking the accident “very seriously so that such accidents don’t happen in the future."

Deadly accidents on construction sites are relatively common in India, where health and safety rules are routinely flouted.

India has no figures for the number of occupational accidents annually, but the UN’s International Labour Organisation has estimated that 50,000 people die here each year from work-related causes.

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