Two-and-a-half years after an under-construction flyover in north Kolkata came down and killed 26, a portion of a 40-year-old bridge in southwest Kolkata collapsed during the afternoon rush hour on Tuesday.
At least, 19 people were injured and five feared dead. At the time of the incident, at least five cars, a minibus and three two-wheelers were on the bridge, said witnesses. Fire personnel, who were aiding the rescue operations, said 20-25 people who were trapped under the debris were rescued. Two were in a serious condition. Nine people were rushed to the nearby hospital, of whom one is feared to have succumbed to injuries.
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, currently in Darjeeling to attend Teachers’ Day celebrations, said all the people who were caught in the collapse have been rescued. Six labourers engaged in the construction of a metro-rail extension project in the nearby area had put up a makeshift shanty under the bridge are yet to be accounted for.
“I have heard that one person has died but I am yet to receive confirmation. There may be two-three casualties,” Banerjee said.
West Bengal Governor Keshari Nath Tripathi, Kolkata’s Mayor and Fire Minster Sovan Chatterjee, and Urban Development and Municipal Affairs Minister Firhad Hakim rushed to the spot.
“We are very worried. We are receiving information from the rescue team on ground. We want to go back as soon as possible. There are no flights in the evening. Our team is focused on relief and rescue work. Rest of the investigation will be done later,” Banerjee said from Darjeeling.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted, “The collapse of a part of a bridge in Kolkata is deeply unfortunate. My thoughts are with the families of the victims. I pray that those who are injured recover at the earliest.”
Partha Chatterjee, the state’s education minister, has ordered a probe to find the causes leading to the collapse of this crucial bridge which connects the densely populated Behala area to central Kolkata. The bridge is maintained by the Public Works Department (PWD).
Hakim said all those who were trapped have been rescued.
“This is not such a big situation that the Army needs to be called in,” he added when asked if help from the Army needs to be sought. However, the armed forces have kept three columns on standby. During the collapse of the Posta flyover, the Army had been called in to aid rescue operations.
Train movement through the Majerhat railway station was suspended temporarily as a precautionary measure, although the bridge didn’t collapse on the underlying railway tracks. Tripathi said, “(The) bridge deserved better maintenance. There was a report on a pit here for quite some time. I don’t know whether the PWD noted it. The PWD and railway administration had the responsibility to maintain it. The matter requires investigation.”
The Eastern Railways has stated that maintenance of the collapsed portion of the road over bridge was not under the jurisdiction of the railways.