KOLKATA: West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Thursday said that 20 major bridges across the state including seven major bridges in capital Kolkata have expired their lifespan and might be dangerous.
Speaking to media after a meeting with Public Works Department, Kolkata Metropolitan Development Authority (KMDA) and Kolkata Police officials at state secretariat Nabanna on Thursday, she said: "Twenty bridges of the state including seven major bridges in Kolkata including Belgachia, Ultadanga, Santragachi, Chingrighata and Bijon Setu has expired their life span. They will be repaired soon and a detailed report has been sought on the works needed to be done."
On the other hand, forensic experts examining the collapsed Majerhat Bridge in south Kolkata that claimed three lives and injured 25 people found on Thursday that cracks had developed in the bridge ten months prior to the collapse which were covered up with thick tar layer.
They have also stated that the tar layering over the bridge might have increased the cracks and may be the reason behind the collapse. The dead body Metro rail worker Goutam Mondal of Murshidabad was recovered from under the debris of the bridge on Thursday, taking the total death toll to three.
The West Bengal Chief Minister also halted Metro rail works adjacent to Majerhat bridge till an investigation committee headed by Chief Secretary Malay Kumar De submits its report within a week's time. "Preliminary investigation done by the investigation committee has found that vibrations due to the Metro works had weakened Majerhat Bridge. Metro works would be halted till they submit the report. Those found responsible for the incident will be punished," she said.
However, Eastern Railways Sealdah divisional railway manager (DRM) Prabhas Dansana said: "Foundation of the Metro work was made a year ago so it is unlikely that it will have any effect on Majerhat bridge."
The West Bengal Chief Minister also rebuked PWD secretary Arnab Ray demanding to know why repairs on Majerhat Bridge were not undertaken despite calling tenders six times over the past two years. To this, Ray stated that Finance department had not cleared the files. To this, Banerjee again rebuked Ray asking him why he did not take up the matter with the Finance secretary, sources revealed.
She also blamed 20-wheel trailers for destroying the bridges of the city. "I told Kolkata Police to prevent 20-wheel trailers from entering the city. They destroy old and new bridges. Kolkata Port Trust has to make alternative arrangements using railways and waterways to transport heavy cargo. We will also check the bridge conditions of other parts of the city where Metro works are being undertaken," she added.
On the other hand, PWD engineers told the Chief Minister that it would take three months to repair the bridge and 1.5-2 years to rebuild the bridge using modern technology.
Meanwhile, state BJP president Dilip Ghosh attacked the state government forensic report stating how tar layering covered up the cracks in Majerhat bridge. "The state government was dillydallying on offering the contract for repairing the bridge. When the Chief Minister went to Behala on August 15, patchworks were done over the cracks of the bridge to cover them up. Some two feet thick tar layers were put up on the bridge," he said.
He also refuted Mamata Banejree's claims that Metro rail works were to be blamed for the collapse. "No expert has said that the collapse occurred due to Metro works. She has to deal with what has happened and cannot get away with putting the blame on others. Immediately other bridges should be surveyed and repaired. Army should be called in to make a temporary bridge over collapsed Majerhat Bridge," he added.
Meanwhile, the case of causing death by negligence (Section 304A IPC) against 'unknown responsible persons' which was registered by Alipore police station on Wednesday was transferred to the detective department of Kolkata Police. A Special Investigation Team (SIT) headed by joint commissioner of police (crime) Praveen Kumar Tripathi was formed to investigate the case.