KOLKATA: At least 18 people were killed, over 60 injured and many others trapped as a section of an under-construction flyover Thursday collapsed on a congested road intersection here, an accident that came as a major embarrassment to the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) bang in the middle of elections.
Unconfirmed sources have put the death toll at 22 after the collapse of the huge girder that crushed people and vehicles which the flyover builder described as an “act of God,” drawing flak.
The West Bengal government ordered a high-level probe into the tragedy that triggered a blame game with the opposition accusing the Mamata Banerjee government of callousness. Hitting back, Trinamool Congress said the previous Left Front government during whose rule the construction of the flyover began was responsible for the collapse.
The police said that 18 persons died in the mishap in the Burrabazar area, which houses the city’s largest wholesale market, while several others were injured. The injured were rushed to the hospitals in the vicinity. Two policemen and one Jorabagan traffic sergeant Sandip Haldar were critically injured.
State administration officials said 62 people were injured and taken to hospitals, while several others were feared trapped under the debris.
“It is nothing but God’s act,” claimed Panduranga Rao of the Hyderabad-based IVRCL Construction company engaged in the flyover’s construction. The police sealed the local office of the IVRCL and registered a case against the company under Sections 304, 308 and 407 of the IPC. Chief Secretary Basudeb Banerjee said that a high-level inquiry has been ordered into the flyover collapse.
A number of vehicles were crushed under the concrete and steel debris. CCTV footage showed people, cars, autorickshaws and hawkers buried under the collapsed structure, while some trying to flee the spot were also trapped.
The footage also caught a bloodied hand from under a girder gesturing for help as people handed over water bottles to survivors trapped underneath.
Five columns of army personnel (about 300 in number) along with NDRF, state disaster management, city police and fire brigade personnel joined in the rescue operations.
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who visited the spot cutting short her election campaign, said, “Stringent action will be taken against officials of the construction company and others involved.” West Bengal Governor K N Tripathi, who visited the spot, sought a report of the incident from the state government.
Banerjee said, “The tender was passed during the erstwhile Left Front government and was given to Hyderabad-based IVRCL Construction,” adding that the company had not provided the government details of the construction plan despite several reminders.
Government announced compensation of Rs five lakh to the kin of each of the dead, Rs three lakh to those injured seriously and Rs one lakh to those less injured. “The government will bear all costs for the treatment of the injured,” said the chief secretary.