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Another Morbi Tragedy: World's Deadliest Dam Disaster Killed 2,000 in 1979

Morbi bridge collapse brought back memories of the 1979 dam failure whenMachchhu river overtopped the Morbi Dam.

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Video Editor: Prajjwal Kumar

On 30 October 2022, a 137-year-old, British-era suspension bridge collapsed in Gujarat's Morbi. The tourist spot was soon labelled as ‘Bridge of Death’ as the collapse claimed 135 lives, including 56 children.

The collapse brought back tragic memories of another tragedy - the 1979 dam failure when Dam-2 on the Machchhu river was overtopped by gushing waters.

43 years ago, Morbi, also known as the ‘Paris of Saurashtra’, had witnessed a similar tragedy.
Morbi bridge collapse brought back memories of the 1979 dam failure whenMachchhu river overtopped the Morbi Dam.

Morbi was known as the ‘Paris of Saurashtra' 

(Photo: Utpal Sandesara)

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HORRORS OF THE MACHCHHU RIVER DAM BURST

On 10 August 1979, an unprecedented monsoon rainstorm, almost seven times more than the usual downpour, inundated the Machchhu river. It increased the flow of the river downstream. The raging river first hit Machchhu Dam-1 and then Machchhu Dam-2. All gates of Machchhu Dam 2 were opened except for a few that were not operational.

The next day, on 11 August, the 4-km long Machchu Dam-2 failed after operating at almost full capacity for almost 24 hours. The water overtopped the embankments on both sides of the spillway leading to the failure of Machchhu Dam-2. 

Morbi bridge collapse brought back memories of the 1979 dam failure whenMachchhu river overtopped the Morbi Dam.

Dam-2 on the Machchhu river was overtopped by gushing waters. 

(Photo: Utpal Sandesara)

By noon, All India Radio (AIR) issued instructions to move to higher grounds but, it was already too late. The gushing waters inundated Lilapar, a small town near Morbi.

Since flood warnings were not very uncommon in the area, many ignored the instructions and did not relocate to the safety of higher ground.
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DEATH ESTIMATES RANGED FROM 1,800-25,000

In Vajepar, a town on the outskirts of Morbi, people took shelter in a temple but, the flood waters rushed in claiming at least 100 lives.

Morbi bridge collapse brought back memories of the 1979 dam failure whenMachchhu river overtopped the Morbi Dam.

Buildings and livestock were destroyed in Morbi. 

(Photo: Utpal Sandesara)

People scrambled to reach rooftops and hilltops. Many women were reportedly compelled to leave their babies behind to save themselves. Death estimate reportedly ranged from 1,800 to 25,000.

In 1985, six years after the tragedy, a former Chairman of Central Water Commission, Dr Y K Murthy, claimed that the water inflow was more than double the spillway capacity.

Morbi bridge collapse brought back memories of the 1979 dam failure whenMachchhu river overtopped the Morbi Dam.

Death estimate reportedly ranged from 1,800 to 25,000.

(Photo: Utpal Sandesara)

By the end of that decade, in 1989, the Machchhu Dam was rebuilt with more than four times the original spillway capacity. The dam tragedy which traumatised the people is listed as the ‘worst dam burst’ in the Guinness Book of Records.

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Topics:  Gujarat   Bridge Collapse   Morbi 

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