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Under-construction Vivekananda flyover collapses in Kolkata; 21 dead, 70 injured

Under-construction Vivekananda flyover collapses in Kolkata; 21 dead, 70 injured
Police are yet to ascertain the number of people still trapped under the girders and debris when more than 1,000 security personnel including the Indian Army and National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) jawans raced against time in a bid to reach survivors.

Chief minister Mamata Banerjee cut short an election rally in West Midnapore and rushed to the spot and started supervising  rescue work. She requested everyone not to try gain political mileage out of the tragic incident. Banerjee informed that the Indian Army has been asked to join the Kolkata Police force in undertaking the rescue work and gave directions to set up a control room where the relatives of the affected people can get information. “It is an unfortunate incident. Left Front government had passed the tender. We had asked for the plan of the flyover but  are yet to get it. But for various reasons the work could not be stopped,” she said after raising questions on how the tender was passed.

The chief minister later went to the Calcutta medical College and Hospital from the spot at around 9.30 pm.  She said that 68 people had been released after being administered first aid while 17 are admitted in hospitals and the condition of 2 people are critical. The state government has ordered a high level inquiry. Another inquiry will be conducted by the civil engineering department of Kharagpur IIT. Three policemen were injured. Two were released after treatment and one was admitted in a private hospital. She said that no one would be spared. An FIR has been lodged with the Posta police station. 

A compensation package of Rs 5 lakh to the next of kin of the dead, Rs 2 lakh for the seriously injured and Rs 1 lakh for those who received minor injuries have been announced. The state government has also decided to provide medical compensation if relatives of any injured person wanted to get their dear ones treated in any private nursing home or hospital.

Some Congress supporters raised slogans despite being requested by Banerjee not to politicise the tragic incident. Using a public address system Banerjee read out the control number: 1070 (toll free) 03322143526, 03322145664. A control room was also set up near the spot where policemen read out names of the injured.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in a tweet: “shocked and saddened” by the Kolkata under-construction bridge collapse incident. Describing the incident an unfortunate one, Home Minister Rajnath Singh said DG (NDRF) was directed to send a team to assist the state government in the rescue work. Senior leaders of all political parties including BJP and CPI-M visited the spot.

According to the local people, at around 12.30 pm they heard a loud sound and found the portion of the flyover collapsing. The signal on the Vivekananda Road was green and vehicles were heading towards Chittaranjan Avenue from Howrah Bridge side. A cloud of dust filled the area blurring everyone’s vision.

Before local people could come to grips with the gravity of the incident, vehicles including a mini-bus, two trucks, three taxis, several pedestrians and those had set up road side food stalls were crushed when around 100 metre girders and the concrete road on the flyover, the work on which had started in 2009, fell on them. Local people had found workers busy in the construction of the flyover. 

The video footage of the traffic police’s surveillance camera shows that around 30 people were crossing the road including one in a bicycle, several on motorbikes and many were waiting at the side for the signal to turn green when the flyover collapsed. A police officer said it is difficult to say how many are still trapped unless the vehicles were brought out.

Thousands of local people along with the police and the disaster management group helped in rescue efforts. Initially five huge cranes were deployed and used to remove the girders. The overhead wires for the tram service on Rabindra Sarani were snapped. The rescue work became tricky as a fire broke out in some vehicles under the debris. Twelve fire tenders were pressed into service to douse the flames.

All senior officers of the Kolkata Police led by the Commissioner of Police Rajeev Kumar reached the spot within a few minutes and joined the rank and file to rescue those trapped under the debris. But it was not possible to remove the girders using the cranes unless the concrete part on the collapsed portion of the flyover was dismantled.  Electric and gas cutters were used to cut some portion of the girders to extricate the trapped.

Around 400 jawans of the Indian Army later joined the rescue work and their engineers too worked in tandem to demolish a portion of the collapsed flyover to rescue trapped people. The rescue work continued till late night with anguished relatives of the missing people approaching the police in search of their loved ones. Flood lights were set up so that the rescue work didn’t get hampered after sunset. Traffic in the northern part of the city was badly affected due to the incident. The personnel grappled to carry out rescue work as thousands of people tried to reach the spot. Local youth helped the police by keeping the milling crowd at bay.

Authorities of the construction company IVRCL claimed that they were not be blamed as more than 70 per cent work had been completed. They described the tragedy as an “act of God” and claimed that many of their employees were also missing. 

Congress President Sonia Gandhi expressed “shock and anguish” over the collapse of the under-construction flyover. Extending her condolences to the family members of the deceased, Gandhi hoped that the injured are being suitably treated. 

Condoling the death of people in the collapse of under-construction flyover in Kolkata, BJP president Amit Shah has asked the West Bengal party unit to join the rescue operations. “Distressed to learn about an under-construction bridge collapse in Kolkata. Have instructed the WB unit to assist in the rescue operation,” he said in a tweet.

          Flyover      Fact File
  • Stretch 2.23 km from Howrah Bridge to Chittaranjan Avenue
  • Purpose To ease traffic congestion in Burrabazar and its surroundings
  • Commencement of work March 2009. Scheduled time of completion was 18 months with a grace period of six months
  • Reason behind delay   Protest by local people claiming the design of the flyover to be a faulty one and withdrawal 
  • of fund by JNNURM
  • Troubles No approach road as land at Howrah end is yet to be acquired
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