Death toll in the flyover collapse in Kolkata rose to 24 on Friday morning with the discovery of two more bodies as emergency workers battled through Thursday night to rescue dozens of people still trapped under the debris.
One body was pulled out from the debris at 1:30am and the other at 6:15am.
Doctors and paramedics of the army worked throughout the night to treat those rescued from the debris even as the state government ordered a high-level probe into the incident. The official death toll was 21.
Around 250 metres of the under-construction 2.2 kilometre-long Vivekananda Road flyover crashed onto dense traffic around 12.30 pm on Thursday near one of the city’s most important business districts, Burrabazar.
PTI, quoting police, said 15 of the dead were identified while the identification process of the rest were on.
Anil Shekhawat, a spokesman for the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), said seventeen survivers out of 92 rescued were still undergoing treatment at hospital, according to AFP.
Most suffered multiple fractures and were in a critical condition, Shekhawat added, saying that the death toll was expected to rise, with an unknown number of people still trapped under the wreckage.
Specialist rescue teams armed with concrete and metal cutters, drilling machines, sensors to detect life and sniffer dogs were sifting through the rubble.
Anurag Gupta, a spokesman for the National Disaster Management Authority, told AFP hundreds of rescuers would work through the night to rescue the trapped victims.
“Four hundred men from NDRF and 300 Indian army men along with hundreds of police and local officials are at the spot,” Gupta said.
Authorities sealed off the accident site to members of the public, who in the initial hours were seen trying to pull away concrete slabs with their bare hands.
Workers struggled to get cranes and other large machinery through the narrow streets of Burrabazar, one of the oldest and most congested parts of the city, where locals desperately waited for news of missing loved ones.
‘Like a bomb blast’
“Everything is finished,” screamed Parbati Mondal, whose fruit-seller husband had not been seen since the accident.
An injured builder told AFP at the scene that he had been working on the structure before it collapsed and had seen bolts come out of the metal girders.
“We were cementing two iron girders for the pillars, but the girders couldn’t take the weight of the cement,” said 30-year-old Milan Sheikh before being taken away to hospital.
“The bolts started coming out this morning and then the flyover came crashing down.”
Many locals said they were fleeing their houses for fear that more of the damaged structure could collapse.
“We heard a massive bang sound and our house shook violently. We thought it was an earthquake,” 45-year-old resident Sunita Agarwal told AFP.
“We’re leaving -- who knows what will happen next.”
An eyewitness at the scene described a loud bang “like a bomb blast and suddenly there was a lot of smoke and dust”.
Problem started during concrete casting
Problems started with the under-construction Vivekanand Road flyover here during midnight of Wednesday-Thursday when concrete casting was being done, construction workers said, reports IANS.
Sunil Sarkar, who was among those doing the concrete casting, said: “The bolt was coming apart as the bucket could not hold it. I think the sunshade in that particular place was made too big.”
Sarkar, now in hospital after sustaining injury, said a technician was called who welded the bolt in place.
“Our supervisors assured us that everything was in order and asked us to go ahead with the concrete casting.”
“The casting continued till noon today (Thursday). When the work was almost complete, the same part caved in and the flyover gave away,” said the resident of Murshidabad district.
Meanwhile, chief secretary Basudeb Banerjee said on Thursday that a high level inquiry has been ordered into the flyover collapse while the city police commissioner Rajeev Kumar handed over a report about the incident to the chief minister Mamata Banerjee.
West Bengal Governor K N Tripathi, who visited the spot, has sought a report of the incident from the state government.