CHENNAI: In an incident that sent shivers down the spine of motorists as well as residents of areas where work on the underground stretch of Chennai Metro Rail is on, a car was trapped when a part of the Poonamalee High Road opposite the Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital hemophilia day care centre caved in on Friday afternoon.
The incident threw traffic out of gear in the area, the cascading effect of which was felt in other areas as well.
According to eyewitnesses, a grey Maruti Swift with two male occupants was proceeding slowly on the stretch when the road caved in all of a sudden. “It happened in a flash that we didn’t know how to react. The two men were screaming and we too began to scream. We were scared to go towards them and help. However, they managed to escape through the driver entrance of the car,” said a flower vendor on the footpath a few metres away from the spot.
The driver Khaleel Rahman (32) who was ferrying the car owner Khaja Saibudeen (50), a businessman, from Chetpet to Mannady told Express: “I noticed a small pothole, but the car ahead of me crossed over it. I slowed down, but as the back tyre crossed the spot, the road caved in. We both feared for our lives.”
He added that CMRL had agreed to foot the bill for the damage to the car. The car was towed away from the spot half an hour later using a crane.
An official statement from Chennai Metro Rail attributed the cave-in to the Tunnel Boring Machine (TBM) working its way below the surface for works on the High Court-Chennai Central stretch.
“The TBM hit an uneven surface as the soil changed from rock to clay,” an official said. Officials descended on the spot with high-tech machinery to re-lay the road even as curious passerby took videos and photos of the operation.
Following this, the stretch from the RGGGH signal to Fort Station was closed for the road re-laying work, causing a huge traffic jam in the area. “It took us an hour and a half to reach Chennai Central from Parry’s Corner, a distance of less than three km,” said a bus commuter on his way for night duty.
The footpath lining the road has a number of bookstores and light refreshment centres housed in an old building. Those manning the shops felt that CMRL and other authorities could have been aware of the vulnerability of the spot.
“Around 10:30 pm on Thursday, a few men came and laid a steel plate exactly at the spot which caved in on Friday. Over the last few days, a contractor has been regularly taking measurements on that stretch of the road,” said the owner of a book store who witnessed the cave-in.
Had it been a bus passing through the spot at that time, many could have been injured, said another eye-witness.
Though Chennai Metro Rail officials had in the past conducted tests and given assurances, shopkeepers are worried if the underground tunneling works would affect their shops as well.
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