Kathmandu, Dec. 25 (Reuters): At least 13 people, mostly women and children, were killed and scores are missing in Nepal today after a suspension bridge collapsed into a river in the west of the Himalayan country, police said.
The villagers were crossing the Bheri river to attend a religious fair near Chhinchu village, 320 km west of Kathmandu, when the bridge collapsed, a police officer said.
We have recovered 13 bodies from the site and rescued 32 people who were rushed to a hospital here, police officer Madhav Rijal said from Surkhet, the biggest city in the region. The victims included four children and seven women, he said.
Earlier reports had said up to 200 people might have gone missing in the wintry cold waters. But Rijal said the number of unaccounted people was not clear. Another official said many people swam to safety and could have returned home without reporting to police.
Rescue work slowed down after sunset and would resume tomorrow, he said. Troops were being rushed to the area to assist with search and rescue operations.
Authorities said one of the supporting pillars of the crowded bridge may have given away, causing the disaster.
Poorly maintained suspension bridges over Himalayan rivers connect remote villages in the mountainous country that does not have a good road network in the countryside.
Chunchu is located about 500 km west of Kathmandu in a rural part of Nepal where there are few paved roads. The most common way of getting from place to place is on foot or in a bullock cart.
The top government official in the area, Anil Pandey, said the 120-metre long bridge was built this year, but that it was not designed to hold the weight of so many people crossing at once.
The people had been on their way to fair held every month after the full moon. The fair attracts thousands of people from surrounding villages.
Authorities feared there could be many more casualties because the river has strong currents and is difficult to swim.