By Swati Gupta, Rhea Mogul, Sandi Sidhu and Mohit Lathiya, CNN
Hanging above a photo frame is a garland of marigolds depicting the faces of 12 members of the Bodha family who died when a bridge collapsed beneath them during a family outing in Gujarat, eastern India.
“There were many deaths,” said grandfather Sundarji Bodha from his home in the small town morbid that mourns the 135 people who lost their lives in the October 30 tragedy.
“I can’t describe the pain and sadness this caused,” said Bodha, who lost five grandchildren, four daughters and three sons-in-law.
In the days since the tragedy, few answers have been given as to why the colonial-era suspension bridge appeared to rupture, dumping dozens of people into the Machchhu River.
Police investigating the case have suggested that the company contracted to maintain the bridge, Oreva, failed to carry out the appropriate repairs or tests to ensure the bridge was safe for pedestrians.
“They just did electrical installation and painting work,” PA Zala, Deputy Superintendent of Gujarat Police, told CNN on Tuesday. “No fitness or capacity test was performed by them.”
Oreva did not respond to CNN’s requests for comment.
But theories about the cause of the disaster offer little comfort to the families of those killed.
“Children are everything,” said Prabhulal Bodha, who wore white to celebrate a day of mourning for his extended family.
“The children are not here and it is so painful. How are we going to take this? We do not know.”
Diwali holidays become deadly
For as long as anyone can remember, the suspension bridge has hung over the Machchhu River.
It was built during British rule around 1900 and attracts tourists who adhere to it thin wire railings for the 230-meter (755-foot) side-to-side walk.
On Sunday October 30, hundreds of families had crowded onto the bridge, which was only 1.25 meters wide, to celebrate Diwali – the Hindu festival of lights.
Gujarat authorities estimate there were about 200 people on the bridge when it collapsed — much more than capacity allowed, they said.
Among them were eight-year-old Faizan and five-year-old Mahinoor Majothi, who were days away from going back to school after the Diwali holiday.
Her Grandmother, Himilaben Khumbhar, was with them on the bridge when it broke.
“I didn’t realize what happened until we fell in the water,” she said. “I was swimming and I got help from people. My life was saved, but my daughter, son-in-law and children all died.”
Faizan and Mahinoor’s school bags still lie in the corner of the front room – a constant reminder of grief and loss.
“I want action to be taken and anyone responsible to be punished,” Kumbhar’s relative Ibrahim Mojothi said.
“I’m not the only one who lost a family. Many people have lost their families… My brother, my sister-in-law, my nephew, my niece are all gone. There’s nobody left.”
Divya Ravardeo was also on the bridge when it collapsed. she remembers People are screaming and desperately trying to swim to safety and save their loved ones.
Her niece and nephew – six and four – drowned in the river.
“We feel so heartbroken,” she said. “Words cannot describe the pain we are going through. We have so much pain in our hearts. My whole family doesn’t know what to make of this. We are deaf.”
Headlight turns on electrical manufacturers
Since the fatal incident, public attention has focused on Oreva, a company based in Ahmedabad, Gujarat’s largest city.
Oreva started out as a watchmaker before moving into electronics, according to its website, which describes the company as “the world’s largest watchmaker” and “one of the big brands in India.”
The bridge was closed for six months in April for renovations, Oreva chief executive Jaysukhbhai Patel told reporters during a reopening ceremony on Oct. 26.
According to video from the event, Patel said the company spent nearly a quarter of a million dollars renovating the bridge. When asked what renovations were being carried out, Patel said: “The bridge was built with timber planks. Now that it is a suspension bridge, we had to use new technical specifications and develop new repair methods.”
He didn’t go into detail, but told reporters the structure would not require major work “eight to ten years.”
The day after the tragedy, Gujarat Police said nine people had been arrested and were being investigated for culpable homicide, all suspects linked to Oreva. So far no charges have been filed.
The suspects include two managers, two ticket clerks, two contractors and three security guards – Patel is not among them. He has not spoken publicly since the tragedy.
Victims’ families will receive compensation from the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund, but Mojothi said it will never be enough for their pain and suffering.
“We just want those responsible to be punished,” he said.
“Compensation is useless. We don’t want the money. We’re not greedy for that money, and we don’t want it.”
The CNN Wire
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