One person died and seven others were injured after a portion of a bridge under construction on the Eastern Freeway, near Anik Panchrapol Link Road, Wadala, collapsed around 9 pm last night.
According to eyewitnesses, those injured were mostly construction workers, cleaners, as well as tankers and taxi drivers who had parked their vehicles under the bridge. Over 100 tonnes of concrete came crashing down after the crane, which it was tethered to, gave way. The concrete slabs fell on parked vehicles and construction workers who were working under the bridge.
MiD DAY’s principal photographer Shadab Khan, who reached the spot soon after the collapse, said, “I was returning home, I got a phone call informing me about the collapse. I rushed to the location to witness locals pulling injured victims from underneath the debris. Some helpers were struggling to find vehicles to take the injured to hospitals, others had stopped a BEST bus to take victims to Sion hospital. Others lifted them and carried them on motorcycles.”
According to Khan, the 50 metre-length of concrete slab that was being laid between pillars three and six on the bridge was held up by a crane. When the crane gave way, the concrete slab fell from a height of 15 feet. Residents said that nearly 12 taxis, two dumpers belonging to the construction company and an oil tanker were crushed under the debris.
A portion of the crane that fell on the oil tanker broke it into two, and oil that was stored in it spewed out and spread all over the road, spreading panic and fear in the minds of locals. “When the bridge collapsed, there was a sound like that of a blast, and thick fumes of smoke spread all around; suddenly, we heard the cries from the people,” said an eyewitness.
Panic-stricken locals then started removing their vehicles that were parked under the remainder of the bridge, fearing that the entire bridge would collapse.
Ironically, no heavy cranes were pressed into service to lift the debris. Fire officials were seen struggling to lift the concrete slabs.
Yusuf Khan, who was driving an oil tanker, passed the spot seconds before the accident. He was carrying a tanker full of furnace oil towards Pune, and said that had the crane fallen on it, there was sure to be more casualties.
Mumbai mayor Sunil Prabhu inspected the spot.
DCP of the region KG Patil visited the spot and supervised the rescue operation. The police have not registered a case against the contractor yet. “We will probe the matter and if anyone is found guilty, action would be taken as per the law,” said a police officer at the spot.
Who’s to blame?
According to MMRDA officials, M/s Simplex Construction was constructing the bridge. This raises concerns – a little over two years ago, a portion of the rig fell at the metro site in Andheri, killing a man travelling in an auto. A few months ago, a portion of the Lalbaug flyover collapsed. Simplex was the contractor for both projects.
MMRDA inspects site
The MMRDA commissioner along with other senior officials visited the spot at 11.45 pm and expressed disapproval with M/s Simplex Construction, as even two hours after the accident, it had not pressed cranes into service to lift the debris.
MMRDA officials revealed that the incident occurred between 9.00 and 9.30 pm, when a steel and concrete girder was being launched on the pillars of Anik Pancharpol Link Road, which is part of the MMRDA’s Eastern Freeway Project. The cost of the entire link road is an estimated Rs 700 crore.
MMRDA will conduct investigations into the matter and decide whether action will be taken against M/s Simplex construction.
Simplex’s MD Amitabh M is out of country, and the company’s spokesperson promised a response soon.
— With inputs from Anuradha Varanasi, Vinod Kumar Menon, Shadab Khan, Ranjeet Jadhav, Naveen Nair