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16 dead after bridge collapse

  • Story Highlights
  • Authorities search downstream for washed-up bodies
  • 32 people were taken to a hospital, police say; 33 others missing
  • Pictures show bridge was just a few yards above the water
  • Structure gave way as festivalgoers were going from one religious site to another
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From Manesh Shrestha
CNN
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KATHMANDU, Nepal (CNN) -- Authorities in a remote region of Nepal searched downstream up to 20 miles (30 km) for bodies Wednesday, one day after a suspension bridge collapsed, sending hundreds of Hindu festivalgoers into the water below.

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The bridge collapsed under the weight of hundreds of people, police said.

While many people swam to safety, 16 bodies have been recovered, with another 33 people confirmed as missing, authorities said. Earlier reports had up to 200 people missing.

Exact figures were difficult to come by, as many family members were separated from each other in the confusion after the collapse.

Rescuers took 20 women and 12 men to a hospital, police said.

While initial reports suggested the river's currents were swift, photographs of the scene sent to CNN showed a relatively slow flowing river.

The pictures also showed the bridge was just a few yards above the water, contrary to earlier reports that it spanned a gorge with the river as far as 100 feet below. Video Watch images of the collapsed bridge »

"The bridge collapsed because there were hundreds of people on it," said Nepal police officer Nibandha Budha. "They had gone to the river for a three-day Hindu religious festival on the occasion of full moon."

The number of people on the bridge is estimated between 700 and 1,000, Budha said.

The 120-yard-long bridge spanned the snow-fed Bheri River in the Surkhet district, about 280 miles (450 kilometers) southwest of Kathmandu. The river is fed by snow from the Himalayas. See a map of the region »

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The men, women and children -- taking part in the final day of the festival -- were crossing the bridge from one religious site to another when the structure gave way, police said.

Nepalese soldiers and police officers were involved in the rescue effort, which was hampered by the remoteness of the location. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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