Even as you read this, search and rescue operations continue in the Zuari River after a bridge over it collapsed, 60 km from Panaji in South Goa. Reports say that bodies of two people have been recovered, but more than 15 people are missing and the presence of crocodiles in the river is hampering operations.
This was a dilapidated Portuguese-era bridge, and the crowd on it had collected to watch the emergency services in action as they tried to rescue a man who had jumped into the river in a suicide bid. The excited crowd paid scant heed to notices on both sides of the bridge citing the danger and saying the bridge was unfit to be stood on.
They stood on the bridge, as is our penchant, trying to see the rescue. We have a tendency to gawk and gape at accidents, distress calls or other calamities, instead of taking the more constructive call of trying to help.
How many times have we seen road alterations or accidents, where people have gathered at the site and those affected are actually begging them to move away, but in vain? The same principle applies here, except the consequences are hugely tragic.
Since the bridge was declared dangerous, it should have been cordoned off or dismantled, even though notices were put up. It would have made more sense to temporarily barricade the bridge, as repairs had been planned for it.
Yet, it is also the public’s duty to heed warnings and notices. Most of the time, we do not even bother to read notices stuck at infra sites. Danger signs are routinely ignored or toyed with. We sometimes see handbills stuck on signage, which becomes impossible to read.
Signs are put up for a reason. We need to respect them, and adhere to them. As for the rescue workers who are still striving to locate people in the river, more power to them.