INDIA BRIDGE COLLAPSE.jpg
A hand out picture made available by the Ministry of Defense of India shows an aerial view of a flooded river and a colonial era partially collapsed bridge in Malad, India, 03 August 2016.
Photograph: EPA/MINISTRY OF DEFENSE OF INDIA

Two bodies washed ashore while divers, boats and choppers continued the search for people washed away in two buses when a bridge collapsed into a flooded river in southern India early Wednesday, officials said.

At least four cars were also suspected of being swept away when the bridge over the Savitri River on the highway between Mumbai and Goa collapsed, local police official Sanjay Naik said.

The accident took place in Maharashtra's Raigad district, approximately 170 kilometres south of Mumbai.

"There were 18 passengers on board the two buses, which also had a driver and conductor each. There was a total of 22 people," Maharashtra's Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said at a press briefing.

"NDRF (National Disaster Response Force) teams have reached the site and are doing their best. A massive search is going on. Desperate attempts are being made to locate the buses," he continued.

Rowing boats belonging to a local sports club, Indian Air Force and Coast Guard helicopters and Indian Navy divers were also engaged in the operations, Naik said.

There is concern that “the heavy rains may hamper rescue operations,” NDRF director general OP Singh said.

"The bridge which was built in British times was being used as a single lane for traffic, it could not withstand the force of the river," Fadnavis said.

All traffic has been diverted to a parallel bridge following the collapse.

All rivers in Maharashtra are flowing near or above dangerous levels due to heavy rains in the region over the past week. Floods have been reported in at least three districts and major operations are underway to rescue marooned villagers, NDTV news channel reported.

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