The number of people presumed killed when a bridge collapsed in western India rose to at least 45 on Saturday, an official said, as rescue divers struggled to recover bodies pinned under water.
Indian rescue personnel work at the scene of a collapsed bridge at the Chambal river in Kota, some 550 kilometres from Ahmedabad, on December 25, 2009. (AFP Photo)
Dozens of labourers plunged into the water late Thursday when the bridge on which they were working gave way over the Chambal river on the outskirts of the city of Kota in Rajasthan state.
"At least 45 people are presumed to have died in the bridge collapse," senior police official Rajeev Dasot told AFP, raising the estimated death toll from 17.
"The total death tally should be between 45 and 50," Dasot said, adding another four people were in hospital.
The bridge was being jointly built by South Korea's Hyundai Engineering and Gammon India, police said.
Two senior project managers, including a South Korean national, have been arrested on accusations of culpable homicide, Dasot said.
Rescue workers were using cranes and gas cutters to slice through the wrecked bridge which was partially submerged.
Two teams of naval divers were helping retrieve bodies from the deep waters.
Dasot said one of the men arrested was working as deputy project manager for Gammon while the South Korean was employed as chief project officer for Hyundai.
"We have taken the most stringent action possible under Indian law," said Dasot.
There was no immediate statement by either company on the accident.
India's national highway authority has launched an inquiry into the accident.
Deadly construction site accidents are relatively common in India, where health and safety rules are routinely flouted.
No up-to-date figures exist for the number of occupational accidents and deaths in India, but the UN's International Labour Organisation has estimated that 50,000 people die here each year from work-related causes.