MUMBAI: Maharashtra government today said the ill-fated British era bridge on Savitri river at Mahad, which collapsed claiming over 20 lives, was supposed to be dismantled last December.
So far, 26 bodies have been recovered while nearly 14 are still missing and feared dead after two State Transport buses and some other vehicles fell in the river following the bridge collapse on Mumbai-Goa highway on August 2.
"This particular bridge was to be brought down last December but on public demand, it was kept in operation," Maharashtra PWD minister Chandrakant Patil told reporters here at Mantralaya.
The bridge on the Mumbai-Goa highway comes under the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI). Union Minister for Surface Transport, Nitin Gadkari soon after the Mahad tragedy had announced that NHAI would reconstruct the bridge within 18 months.
Replying to other queries, Patil said there are about 2,300 bridges in the state out of which 100 odd are from the British and Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj era.
"All these bridges will be inspected twice every year. A three-member committee of experts from Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) has commenced its study on the bridge. Its report is expected to be received by next cabinet meeting due on August 23," he said, adding that the process of constituting a judicial inquiry has been set in motion.
"A workshop will be conducted for the PWD engineers for methodology to be used for inspection of the bridges," Patil said, adding the workshop will dwell on what to do with trees that grow on the bridge structure weakening it later.
He said pulling out trees does not solve the issue.
Patil said it will have to be decided on whether to repair or reconstruct dilapidated bridges.
"A bridge division will be created in each administrative division of the state to take care of the bridges," he said.
He informed that the state cabinet has relaxed the norm of seven years waiting period for granting compensation to kith and kin of the deceased in such accidents.
The kin of the deceased will now get compensation within two months, he said.
Considering the Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation has announced Rs 14 lakh compensation to the passengers who lost their lives in the two buses and on the demand of kin of deceased from private vehicles, the government will give Rs 10 lakh to them as well, Patil said.
Meanwhile, the search teams have decided to continue the operation till they recover all the bodies and remains of the swept away vehicles.
Also, Raigad administration has made arrangements for the lodging of nearly 100 kin of the victims who are camping at the site of the collapsed bridge.
Few relatives of the missing persons yesterday expressed anger over the failure to recover more bodies and vehicles swept away in the water.