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12 members of Indian lawmaker’s family dead in Indian foot bridge collapse

Twelve members of an Indian lawmaker’s family have been killed in the western state of Gujarat where a century-old bridge collapsed on Sunday killing at least 141 people.

Mohan Kundariya, who is a member of Parliament from prime minister Narendra Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party in Gujarat’s Rajkot, said that his family members had gone for a picnic when the tragedy took place.

“Four daughters of the brother-in-law of my elder brother, the husbands of three of them and five children were killed in the accident,” he was quoted as saying to Press Trust of India.

“As it was Sunday, they had gone to the picnic spot where the tragedy occurred. I reached here half-an-hour after the incident took place and have been at the spot since yesterday, helping in the rescue work.”

The 230m-long bridge, built during the British colonial rule in the 1800s had been closed for six months and reopened just last week.

It was opened on 26 October on Gujarati new year without a fitness certificate from civic authorities, reported Indian broadcaster NDTV.

Surveillance footage of the incident shows at least one person seemingly shaking the bridge deliberately just seconds before it snapped, plunging dozens of people into the Machchhu river below.

Eyewitnesses said that the bridge in Morbi town collapsed following overcrowding by hundreds of people who had gathered there on account of the weekend as well as the Hindu festival of Chhath Puja.

The ruling BJP in Gujarat has promised a probe into the incident and announced compensation for the deceased and the injured.

The incident comes months ahead of state elections in Gujarat slated for December.

Mr Modi who is campaigning for the polls in his home state will visit the site of the tragedy on Tuesday.

Earlier on Monday at a campaign rally in the state, the prime minister defended continuing with his election canvassing, calling it his “duty.”

“I am in Ekta Nagar, but my mind is with the victims of Morbi. Rarely, in my life, would I have experienced such pain. On one hand, there is a pain-riddled heart and on the other hand, there is the path to duty,” he said in Kevadia.

“I express my condolences to families of those who lost their lives in the accident. In this hour of grief, the government is with the bereaved families in every manner.”

The prime minister has also faced criticism from the opposition which has lashed out at him following the incident and alluded to his statement in 2016 by asking if Sunday’s incident was an “act of God” or “act of fraud”.

The opposition’s attack was in reference to Mr Modi’s statement hitting out at opposition ruled West Bengal state government after a flyover collapse in May 2016.

Opposition Congress party has also written to the federal government demanding a “judicial probe” into the “cause of the incident, which prima facie seems to be a case of criminal negligence and gross misgovernance”.