Kolkata flyover tragedy: Collapse kills 25, contractor calls it ‘an act of God’

KOLKATA,SUMIT MOITRA: An under-construction flyover came crashing at peak hours of noon over one of the busiest street-crossings of Kolkata, killing more than 25 and critically injuring many, even as rescue operations continued till late Thursday night with more feared trapped inside cars and autos.

The two-km-long Vivekananda Flyover, six years in the making, being built by cash-strapped IVRCL, collapsed over Chitpur-MG Road crossing at around 12.30pm over pedestrians, slow-moving cars, taxis, trucks and auto-rickshaws, instantly killing many, crushing vehicles to mangled pulp and trapping many between long steel beams.

While the reason for the accident is not yet known, people in this congested neighbourhood said concrete was laid overnight which could have possibly increased the weight over the steel beams to levels beyond their bearing capacities.

Rescue operations proved to be challenge and a logistical nightmare at the congested older part of the city, where buildings, some belonging to the British-era, rise just from the edge of the road with the guard-rails of the flyover just inches away from the windows of the houses, leaving little room for the heavy duty cranes, or any type of large rescue vehicles to move freely alongside hundreds of onlookers.

The city police, who were the first to reach the spot were clueless how to start rescue operation, which was initially being handled by locals trying and failing to shift large steel and concrete structures and pull out those severely injured.

TV footage of neighbourhood people trying to slip in water bottles to voices trapped inside or helplessly finding ways to help those with crushed limbs sticking out shocked viewers.

A crane belonging to Metro Railways was brought in but its cable snapped while pulling the heavy metal.

National Disaster Response Force personnel arrived in the afternoon with gas-cutters, sniffer dogs and cameras while cranes from every construction site in and around the city were brought in.

The long steel beams were then lifted to pull out the dead and the injured.

Around 80 people were rescued and admitted to nearby hospitals, chiefly Marwari Relief Society and Medical College.

An official of ICRVL, contractor for Kolkata Metropolitan Development Authority, described the tragedy as an “act of God” but the story of a flyover, that saw many missed deadlines, change in plans, and opposition by affected people, points to the risk of forcing new-age infrastructure on a crumbling city bursting at the seams.

The project was grand in its vision, linking Girish Park at the central part of the city to Howrah Bridge, easing traffic flow in and out of the city.

IVRCL was awarded the project in 2009 with a deadline of 18 months. It’s still nowhere nearing completion, leading to cost overrun.

Posted by on April 1, 2016. Filed under Editorial. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.