Corroded wires, welded suspenders behind Morbi bridge tragedy: SIT in preliminary probe report

Recently, the Morbi Municipality received the report from the State Urban Development Department. The report, which was submitted in December 2022 by a five-member SIT, is a component of the ‘Preliminary Report on Morbi Bridge Incident’. These discoveries are included in the report.

The responsibility for the operation and maintenance of the suspension-era British bridge on the Machchu river was held by Limited Manufacturing Ajanta (Oreva Group). The Special Investigation Team (SIT) discovered several failures in the operation, maintenance, and repair of the bridge, which collapsed in October of last year. The SIT found several lapses in the maintenance and operation of the suspension-era British bridge on the Machchu river, which collapsed last October.

Also Read | Morbi bridge collapse | Multiple generations lost in catastrophe.

The SIT consisted of a structural engineering professor, a chief engineer from the State Roads and Building Department, a secretary, Subhash Trivedi who is an IPS officer, and Rajkumar Beniwal who is an IAS officer.

The Special Investigation Team (SIT) noted that one of the main cables of the bridge, which was built by the erstwhile rulers in 1887 over the Machchhu river, may already be broken before the snapped cable incident on the evening of 30 October. Additionally, nearly half of its wires were found to have corrosion issues.

Main cable snapped

According to the SIT report, a total of 49 wires were combined in seven bundles to create this cable. Each cable consisted of seven bundles, each containing seven steel wires. The SIT stated that the primary cable on the side of the river facing upstream broke, resulting in the unfortunate incident.

Additionally, Read | In images | Morbi bridge collapse.

The SIT said in its report that the remaining 27 wires broke recently. The incident indicates that those wires that may have been broken before were corroded. It was observed that 22 wires out of the 49 cables were corroded.

These types of bridges should have single rod suspenders to bear the load. Therefore, the behavior of the suspenders was changed. The old suspenders were welded with the new suspenders, which were also found during the renovation work of SIT. The steel rods (old suspenders) are connected to the cable with the deck platform.

The Morbi Municipality, notably, awarded the contract to Oreva Group (Ajanta Manufacturing Limited), without the approval of the general board, to maintain and operate the bridge. The bridge, which had been closed for renovation in March 2022, was opened on October 26 without any prior inspection or approval.

‘Far more than capacity’

The laboratory reports will verify the true capacity of the bridge; nevertheless, the SIT stated that the bridge’s actual capacity was significantly greater than its load-bearing capacity. The SIT also reported that approximately 300 individuals were on the bridge when it collapsed.

Additionally, Read | The weight of calamity: On the Morbi bridge tragedy in Gujarat.

The probe report also pointed out that replacing individual wooden planks with an aluminium deck also played a role in the collapse.

Furthermore, the bridge was opened without conducting any load test or structure test, according to the statement. The presence of individual wooden planks prior to the renovation could have potentially reduced the number of casualties. Instead of using flexible wooden planks, the walking structure was constructed using rigid aluminium panels.

Additionally, Read | Gujarat High Court questions the process through which the Morbi bridge project was assigned without a tender.

The addition of aluminium could have increased the overall weight of the bridge, but adding it also makes the deck of the plane less flexible, preventing any gaps between the fixed honeycomb aluminium panels.

The Morbi police have already arrested ten accused individuals, including Patel Jaysukh MD Group’s Oreva, under Sections 337 (endangering human life), 336 (attempt to commit culpable homicide), 308 (not amounting to murder but culpable homicide), and 304 (not amounting to culpable homicide but murder) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), for their negligent or reckless actions causing harm to another person.