KOLKATA: A day after Majerhat Bridge collapse here on Tuesday killed two people and injured 25, West Bengal government and Indian Railways played blame game against each other without anyone ready to shoulder the responsibility, prompting Kolkata Police to book a case of causing death by negligence (Section 304A IPC) against 'unknown responsible persons'.
One more dead body was retrieved from beneath the debris on Wednesday taking the death toll to two. One more person is suspected to be trapped beneath the debris. The two have been identified as metro railway workers Goutam Mondal and Pranab Kumar Dey from Beldanga in Murshidabad district.
Reaching the spot after returning from Darjeeling, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee indirectly blamed the collapse on Metro rail works saying: "The area saw Metro works since the past nine years. Locals said they felt like earthquake due to the Metro rail works. We are not ruling out any possibilities."
However, amid repeated bridge collapses, she also indirectly admitted government's fault saying: "Normally, we monitor bridges every six months but we don't have papers of old bridges like Majerhat Bridge; we don't find papers of old bridges. But, we even found it difficult to locate the papers of under-construction Vivekananda flyover when it collapsed in 2016."
She has called an emergency meeting of Public Works Department (PWD), Kolkata Metropolitan Development Authority (KMDA) and police at state secretariat Nabanna on Thursday and has sought detailed health reports of different bridges and structures across Kolkata.
Earlier in the day, Rail India Technical and Economic Service (RITES) sent a team of experts to the spot which submitted its report stating that there was no connection between Metro rail works and the bridge collapse and that the bridge was heavier than what was permitted.
On the other hand, Rail Vikas Nigam Limited (RVNL), nodal agency for Kolkata Metro, said that Metro rail works in Majerhat Bridge has been completed since the past one year. Meanwhile, it has come to light that the PWD had given a 'fit' certificate to Majerhat Bridge just six months prior to its collapse on Tuesday. Chief Secretary Moloy De on Wednesday sought a report from PWD demanding to know which engineer deemed the bridge fit and whether he was not capable enough or gave the fit certificate without even checking.
It has also come to light that a tender of Rs 2 crore was called for repair of the bridge three times over the past two years but was never started. Also, it has been found that multiple layering of tar over the bridge and outgrowth of creepers and seeping of water in the concrete had weakened the bridge.
After inspecting the bridge, construction specialist Amal Kanti Biswas said: "Normally modern-day bridges have at most 4 inches of tar but this old bridge has 12 inches or one foot of tar. This was a concrete bridge and not like present-day bridges built on iron girders. And, concrete is not waterproof.
Water seeped into concrete and loosened it. Also, creepers on the side of the bridge destroyed the reinforcement of the bridge. There should be a maintenance and investigation committee for all flyovers of the state."The state government has notified structural engineers of Jadavpur University, BESU and IIT Kharagpur to check whether there were some structural problems in the bridge.