Fears after bridge collapse
Two buses plunged into a flooded river after an old bridge collapsed in western India, leaving at least 22 people missing and feared dead, an official said yesterday.
Rescuers had not found the buses or any survivors hours after the single-lane bridge on the Mumbai-Goa highway collapsed about midnight on Tuesday, said Devendra Fadnavis, Maharashtra state's chief minister.
The two Maharashtra staterun buses were carrying a total of 18 passengers, two drivers and two conductors, according to Fadnavis.
He said the bridge, constructed in the 1940s, likely collapsed because it was buffeted by strong currents from the Savitri River, which was flooded by monsoon rains.
OP Singh, chief of the National Disaster Response Force, said that 80 rescuers, including divers, rushed to the area, but that their efforts were being hampered by heavy rains.
A helicopter hovered over the area trying to spot the buses or any bodies floating in the swollen river.
The heavy monsoon rains in India has forced a million people to take shelter in government-run relief camps.
Incessant downpours have damaged swaths of land, uprooted trees and snapped telephone cables in dozens of districts in the states of Bihar in the east, Assam in the remote northeast and Himachal Pradesh in the north.
The heavy monsoon rains have come after two straight years of drought in India.
On Monday, landslides and heavy rains blocked highways leading to Tibet and Manali, a tourist resort in Himachal Pradesh state, with hundreds of people stranded for several hours before rescuers cleared the way, the Press Trust of India news agency said.