As Curchorem and Sanvordem slowly recover from the shock of Thursday’s footbridge collapse that took around 50 people into the River Zuari, the small solace to the town people will be that the death toll was contained at three.
As Curchorem and Sanvordem slowly recover from the shock of Thursday’s footbridge collapse that took around 50 people into the River Zuari, the small solace to the town people will be that the death toll was contained at three. It could have been much higher, but for the presence of the team of the Fire and Emergency Services that was at the site when the bridge collapsed, and the presence of mind of some young lads who jumped into the river to save their fellow citizens. In the midst of the tragedy at Curchorem, there emerged a couple of heroes, whose efforts definitely reduced the death toll that could have been higher, and their contribution to the rescue operation has to recognised.
Take the example of Amar Sanvordekar. He was one of the many person who had been standing on the footbridge watching the rescue operation being conducted by the fire and emergency services team for the person who had committed suicide. Sanvordekar, along with dozens others fell into the river when the portion of the bridge collapsed. He saved himself, but seeing the people struggling in the river he plunged into the water again and saved two more. He says his conscience forced him to act. The other brave heart, Suleman Gori, was not on the bridge but a little way down the river and searching for the person who had committed suicide. He saw the bridge collapsing and how many swam to shore without bothering to help those who couldn’t swim. He entered the water and saved three lives.
These two lads didn’t look to see if the person crying for help was a friend or a foe, for them it was a matter of humanity. In that moment of panic, when many others may have stood frozen at the spot, they acted to save the life of another human. As the towns people put this tragedy behind them, they have also these two young men to thank, and also themselves to blame for risking their lives on the weak structure that had been barricaded by the authorities.
The people of Curchorem and Sanvordem are, however, not happy with the manner in which the footbridge was left standing, despite it having been barricaded and it having been closed for public use. They are questioning as to why the bridge was not demolished once a new bridge had been built. The bridge remaining standing, though barricaded, was an invitation to disaster and that is what happened on Thursday evening in Curchorem. Local residents have pointed out that they have repeatedly sought with the authorities to demolish the bridge as they feared a tragedy during the Ganapati idol immersion nights, when crowds of people would stand on the bridge to watch the immersions taking place. The tragedy occurred, and the presence of the fire and rescue personnel at the site, involved in the search of a suicide victim, perhaps saved many lives.
Curchorem’s tragedy will not be easily forgotten. Not as long as the bridge remains in place. Reacting to the collapse, the government is now likely to float a tender for the demolition of the footbridge. A decision on that needs to be taken, but it should not be restricted to this bridge alone. The authorities need to inspect the various other bridges, many of them of the Portuguese- era that are still being used by pedestrians and even vehicles, and test them for their strength. South Goa itself has 46 such bridges and these will either have to be strengthened or even demolished and replaced by new ones, before more tragedies occur.