The death toll from the collapse of a pedestrian bridge over a river in Gujarat, western India, has risen to at least 130 as more stories emerge of the terrifying moment the structure gave way .

Local officials say about 400 people were on the suspension bridge over the Machchu River in the city of Morbi on Sunday and the atmosphere was festive. Families had come out on to the bridge to celebrate a post-Diwali religious ritual in which idols are immersed into the river.

The bridge is more than a century old and dates back to the British Raj, but it had just re-opened on 26 October after extensive repairs carried out over six months by a private company.

“There were a lot of young children among the dead,” one rescuer told NDTV news channel. “It was a Sunday evening so families had come out for a stroll because it’s a popular tourist spot.”

Staff at the nearby hospitals where the victims were taken told NDTV that many children died, with some couples losing more than one child.

map of Gujarat

Prateek Vasava, who swam to the riverbank after falling from the bridge, told a local news channel that he had witnessed several children fall into the river.

“I wanted to pull some of them along with me but they had drowned or got swept away,” he said.

Another survivor said: “The cables snapped and the bridge came down in a split second. People fell on each other and into the river.”

The lucky ones were able to swim to safety or were rescued by a 200-strong team including staff from the navy, army, and air force and the National Disaster Response Force.

In video footage, people can be seen clinging to the twisted remnants of the bridge that were still above water.

Early on Monday, an official told NDTV the death toll had risen to at least 130. Reuters reported the death toll was 132, citing senior official, NK Muchhar.

Rescue operations were still under way but the purpose was primarily to find the bodies. Rescuers have been hampered by the thick algae lying on the river’s surface.

“The layer of algae made the search operations in the dark a daunting task,” a local politician told The Times of India.

About 77 people have been taken to hospital, some with serious injuries. Chaotic scenes were seen at local hospitals as the staff were faced with a sudden and massive influx of victims.

The 230-metre-long (750ft) bridge, known by locals as the Hanging Bridge, was built during British rule in the 19th century.

Gujarat is the home state of India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, who was in the state on a three day visit. Mr Modi announced compensation of 200,000 rupees (£2,000) to the families of the victims.

The state government has formed a five-member special investigation team to conduct an investigation into the disaster. Gujarat ministers have said those responsible for the collapse will face severe punishment.

Reuters contributed to this report

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