KOLKATA/HYDERABAD:It was a stiff deadline the builder was racing to catch when an under construction flyover came crashing down killing at least 22 people, injuring more than 80 and trapping several including school children at Burrabazzar here.
While Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is said to have insisted that the work be over by March 31, builder IVRCL Ltd of Hyderabad is learnt to have missed at least eight deadlines for executing the contract for constructing the Vivekananda Road flyover. The cash strapped IVRCL has been under a lot of pressure for the past six years. A criminal case has been registered against the company.
According to State government engineers, the TMC government wanted to package the flyover as a big achievement in poll-bound West Bengal, hence the urgency to wrap up the project. Local residents alleged that the cement mix was laid on the slab only on Wednesday night but work started as early as noon, even before the mix could turn into concrete.
Milon Sheikh, a worker who survived at the site, said, “I was working on the flyover doing welding when I saw the nuts and bolts snap. We were told to hurry up and complete the work by today. All of a sudden, it collapsed and I fell along with it.”
The blamegame began soon enough with the opposition and the ruling TMC trading charges. Critics said that the route of the Vivekananda flyover was tweaked and architects questioned the plan as the flyover was in sniffing distance to the century-old buildings and its porticos. A Tata Sumo with at least 20 school children and a bus with 50 passengers were trapped, with officials fearing for the worst. Prime Minister Narendra Modi called up Mamata Banerjee from the US and expressed shock.
As Many Remain Trapped, Blame Game Begins
People could be seen fleeing in the crowded area. Multi-storied buildings shook as if an earthquake had struck. The entire area was full of dust and smoke. Crushed bodies were strewn at the site and blood could be seen oozing out of the vehicles. Gas cutters were brought in and critically injured people were rushed to the nearby hospitals. More than 80 people were admitted to the hospitals. The Army was called in after four hours and began using their equipment and heavy cranes.
Meanwhile, the blame game began as Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee cancelled her election campaign tour and returned from West Midnapore. “This project started in 2009 and the former Left Front government gave this `164 crore project to Hyderabad-based IVRCL Ltd. We had asked for the plans but they refused to give it to us. The guilty will be arrested and criminal action will be initiated. It is a very unfortunate incident indeed,” the Chief Minister said. Former urban development minister and CPI(M) leader Asoke Bhattacharya said that the CM’s statement was irresponsible. “We sanctioned the flyover and the company got the contract through a tender. Work started after 2011 and it’s the TMC that has to take the responsibility. ” Union urban development minister Babul Supriyo said that the entire project is unscientific as it is in a very congested area and posed a threat to the age-old buildings.
The BJP described the accident as a “reflection of corruption on the part of Trinamool Congress government” and demanded a CBI probe.
Meanwhile, several people and vehicles still remained trapped under the debris. Army officials felt that they might have to work through the night to cut the girders and parts of the slab to rescue those trapped inside.
Hyderabad-based IVRCL Ltd, the builder, is in the eye of the storm as the firm had missed the project deadline on at least eight occasions in the past
Bengal govt engineers blame it on the humungous pressure to complete construction, as Mamata wanted it to be functional before the Assembly polls
Locals claim that the cement mix was laid on the slab only on Wednesday night but work was on even before the mix turned into concrete
School kids trapped
Many still trapped under the rubble, including car carrying 20 school children and a mini bus with 50 passengers
IVRCL engineers flee after the collapse
Case registered, West Bengal police team leaves for Hyderabad to arrest IVRCL directors
Cops stop army from rescue work; yield later