Kolkata flyover tragedy: Death toll rises, rescue ops on; FIR against builder

Mar 31, 2016, 22:00 IST | Agencies

Twenty-one people were killed and several trapped when a portion of an under-construction flyover collapsed on a busy central street in Kolkata. Police file an FIR against builders IVRCL Infrastructure

Kolkata: Twenty-one people were killed when a flyover under construction crashed in a crowded market area here on Thursday, crushing scores of unsuspecting people and some vehicles, top officials and witnesses said. The army was called in to assist in the rescue operation.

The incident took place at around noon at the busy Rabindra Sarani-K K Tagore Street crossing near Burrabazar, the trading hub and one of the most congested areas in the city.

Kolkata Bridge

The bridge which collapsed near Badabazar. Pic/PTI

"We had earlier given the death count as 18. Now police have seen three more bodies, which they will extricate," Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said while on a visit to the Calcutta Medical College and Hospital here.

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The chief minister said of the 18 bodies kept in the hospitals, 15 have been identified. Twelve of them have been handed over to the family members.

Rescue efforts were still on and would continue through the night.

Banerjee, who rushed to Kolkata after cancelling election rallies in West Midnapore district, had earlier confirmed 18 fatalities and said 17 people were still in hospital after sustaining injuries in the ghastly disaster which occurred around 12.30 p.m.

A National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) official put the number of injured around 100.

"Eighteen people died and over 70 were rescued. Seventeen of them are still in hospital," the chief minister had said earlier.

Hundreds of locals were the first to reach the site at Posta area in the city's northern part to see how best they could rescue those buried in the heaps of debris before official rescue workers and police joined them.

Nearly 500 army men that included 10 military medical teams, ambulances, paramedics, rescue teams with sophisticated gas cutters and cranes, besides police, disaster response teams and fire brigade personnel transported the badly injured as well as nearly dying to hospitals an extricated corpses.

The soldiers are using specialized equipment to rescue those trapped under tonnes of steel and concrete, a defence ministry spokesman said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed "shock" over the tragedy. "My thoughts are with the families of those who lost their lives," he tweeted. "May the injured recover at the earliest."

Home Minister Rajnath Singh said he had spoken to NDRF Director General O.P. Singh to coordinate relief work.

The accident spot represented a horrific site. Body parts were strewn in the debris. Blood was splattered on the streets.

A video of the disaster showed the Vivekananda Road Flyover -- whose foundation was laid in 2008 and where work began in February 2009 -- suddenly crashing with a roar, giving no time for anyone under it to escape.

"There was a sudden thundering noise" as the flyover crashed, a witness said.

He said he saw the flyover collapse over taxis, auto-rickshaws and other vehicles besides people who were walking under it.

A witness claimed a mini bus was caught in the disaster, but late in the evening, police said the vehicle was not there under the debris.

With the collapsed flyover covering the entire road, rescue operations were badly hampered as cranes found it difficult to reach the spot. Later, people formed human chains to regulate the flow of soldiers.

Amid sights of despair and distress, angry locals vented their ire against the state government's "feeble" attempts to rescue the injured, alleging that the state's disaster management units "arrived late" and came virtually "empty-handed".

Many people protested when city mayor Sovan Chattopadhyay arrived at the spot to take stock of the situation.

The chief minister, who personally supervised the rescue efforts, announced a compensation of Rs.5 lakh to the families of the dead, Rs.2 lakh each for the critically injured and Rs.1 lakh for those who suffered minor injuries.

Banerjee formed two expert teams to look into the reasons for the mishap and suggest remedies.

Following her instructions, police filed an FIR against the implementing agency IVRCL Infrastructure, whose owner described the disaster as an "act of god".

Also Read: Kolkata flyover tragedy: Builder says incident 'an act of god' 

Many passenger vehicles, trucks and rickshaws were seen under the debris but it was not immediately known as to how many people were trapped. 

"There was a sudden thundering noise" as the Vivekananda Flyover came crashing down, a witness said. He said he saw the flyover collapse over taxis, auto-rickshaws and other vehicles. "More than 100 people must have been (buried) beneath it... It is a huge loss of human life," the witness said. Human body parts could be seen in the debris, with blood splattered on the road.

Police sources said that eight persons were killed in the incident, while several others were injured. The death toll could go up, they said. Several injured persons were rescued from under the debris and were being sent to different hospitals in the vicinity.

"Two persons were brought dead and two others were in serious condition," Kolkata Medical College and Hospital superintendent Sikha Banerjee said. "More injured persons are still being brought in to the hospital," Banerjee said.

Several passenger vehicles, including a bus, were trapped under the debris, as operations were on to clear the rubble and bring out those trapped under. Huge cranes and other rescue vehicles were pressed into service to clear the debris and bring out the injured.

Kolkata BridgeAmbulances stuck as people in large numbers gather at the site of the accident where an under-construction flyover collapsed on Vivekananda Road in Kolkata on Thursday. Pic/PTI

A media correspondent who was at the accident site, saw a number of severely injured persons lying in a pool of blood. At least a few persons were seen trapped under vehicles, concrete and heavy steel girders.

A number of hawkers operate under the flyover which is also used for parking several vehicles. NDRF personnel were also rushed to the site to to assist in the rescue operations. Two teams of the National Disaster Response Force comprising about 80 personnel had rushed to the flyover collapse spot. NDRF Director General O P Singh said in Delhi that the teams are being sent from their local base at Rajarhat, near the Kolkata airport.

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The accident spot is about 13 kms from the NDRF base. "The teams are well equipped to immediately conduct rescue operations. They will do that exactly as soon as they reach," Singh said.

The government sought Army help in the relief and rescue operations after which four columns of rescue personnel were deployed. Each column has three medical teams with two ambulances and surgeons along with nursing assistants, a defence official said.

A team of engineers from the army has also reached the spot with specialist equipment to help the civic authorities dismantle the debris.

Kolkata BridgeA crushed auto-rickshaw after collapse of an under-construction flyover on Vivekananda Road in Kolkata. Pic/PTI

An auto is The state government has opened an emergency helpline with number 1070 from the state secretariat Nabanna to provide information related to those injured or killed in the mishap.

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee visited the site and directed the authorities to speed up the relief and rescue operations carried out by police, fire brigade and disaster management personnel. 

She announced a compensation of Rs.5 lakh to the families of the dead and Rs.2 lakh each for those critically injured as well as Rs.1 lakh for those who suffered minor injuries.

PM Narendra Modi expressed shock over collapse of flyover in Kolkata; says he took stock of the situation and rescue operations. (Read more)

Congress President Sonia Gandhi today expressed 'shock and anguish' over the collapse of the under-construction flyover in Kolkata in which 18 people were killed and over 60 others injured.

Extending her condolences to the family members of the deceased, Gandhi hoped that the injured are being suitably treated. She has instructed the PCC and Congress affiliates to assist in the relief efforts.

Ahmed Patel, political secretary to the Congress President, tweeted...

Disaster teams were late, empty-handed, say angry locals

Amid sights of despair and distress, angry locals vented their ire against the West Bengal government's 'feeble' attempts to rescue the injured from the debris of the flyover that collapsed in the city on Thursday.

Their grievances were against the state's disaster management units which, they said, 'arrived late'.

Many people protested when city mayor Sovan Chattopadhyay arrived at the spot to take stock of the situation.

"The teams came late and with nothing that could help in the rescue process," a resident of Girish Park area, that is close to the collapse site, said.

"The team took gas cutters, beam cutters, ring cutters from an adjacent shop. They just came wearing jackets," said another.

Helpline numbers:
033- 22535185
033- 22145664

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