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Thursday, Oct 17, 2019

Probe into Mumbai bridge collapse begins, two suspended

The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) also announced a re-examination of safety audit of 296 bridges in the city and a revamp of a department that overlooks and maintains bridges in India’s financial capital

india Updated: Mar 15, 2019 23:34 IST

Hindustan Times, Mumbai
A major section of the crowded bridge, known to locals as the Himalaya bridge, came crashing down during evening rush hour on Thursday.
A major section of the crowded bridge, known to locals as the Himalaya bridge, came crashing down during evening rush hour on Thursday.(Kunal Patil/HT Photo)
         

Mumbai’s civic authorities suspended on Friday two engineers said to be responsible for auditing and repairing a pedestrian bridge that came crashing down during the evening rush hour a day before, killing six people and injuring 31 others.

The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) also announced a re-examination of safety audit of 296 bridges in the city and a revamp of a department that overlooks and maintains bridges in India’s financial capital.

BMC commissioner Ajoy Mehta ordered the suspension of executive engineer AR Patil, who the body said supervised the structural audit work of the bridge in 2017-18 and assistant engineer SF Kakulte, who is said to have supervised the repair work in 2013-14.

He also ordered an inquiry against five officers — retired chief engineer (bridges) SO Kori, retired deputy chief engineer (bridges) RB Tare, executive engineers Patil and AI Engineer and assistant engineer Kakulte — for “poor inspection during repair work and auditing” of the foot overbridge.

An inquiry will be conducted to find out the cause of the bridge collapse within a month.

A major section of the crowded bridge, known to locals as the Himalaya bridge, came crashing down during evening rush hour on Thursday. The bridge connected the busy Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST) with BT Lane near The Times of India Building and the Anjuman-e-Islam School, and was used by thousands of daily commuters rushing to catch local trains on Central Railway and the Harbour Line.

Authorities spent Friday morning clearing the arterial Dadabhai Naoroji Road in south Mumbai of debris and chunks of concrete, and demolished the remaining sections of the bridge. This was the second major bridge collapse in Mumbai in nine months, and the accident involving a pedestrian bridge in almost two years.

On July 3, 2018, a pedestrian pathway of Gokhale Bridge over Andheri railway station in suburban Mumbai gave way, killing two people and injuring five others.

On September 29, 2017, a stampede on a rail foot over-bridge at Elphinstone Railway station killed 22 people and injured at least 39.

The orders came hours after chief minister Devendra Fadnavis directed the civic chief to fix primary responsibility and take action by evening.

“If a bridge collapses after structural audit, it raises questions about the whole process. There is no reason to spare anyone. If there has been an audit and the bridge collapses, then the audit will also be probed… if those who audited certified the bridge fit, it is a very wrong thing. The bridges that have
been audited will be revisited,” he said.

The auditing firm was removed from the BMC’s panel and the municipal body said the contractor who repaired the bridge in 2013 will be issued a show-cause notice and the firm likely blacklisted.

“Despite spending public money on the audit, the true condition of the bridge could not be found out leading to the tragedy. The tragedy could have been avoided if the audit would have been carried out diligently,” the report said.

A copy of the audit report dated August 13, 2018, made public by the BMC, showed that the bridge was in good condition and needed only minor repairs but failed to mention the nature and location of the said repairs.

A private firm that conducted repair works on the bridge between 2012 and 2014 will be issued a show-cause notice for sub-standard repair work, the BMC said.

“Since the bridge collapsed within six years of the repairs being carried out it seems that the supervision work and workmanship of the contractors was not up to the mark,” the report said.

The BMC said that the audit of 296 bridges, which were completed and reports submitted, will be revisited.

In 257 cases, the audit reports will be re-examined and the 39, where the audit was carried out by the same firm that looked after Himalaya bridge, will be re-audited by a different firm.

The BMC also announced a complete revamp of its bridge department that operates around 374 bridges in the city. A new post of “chief bridges inspector” will be created to be in charge of the “bridge inspection authority”.

The authority will define and set the frequency of bridge inspection, enumerate the inspections, define the template and format in which the reports will be submitted, define responsibilities of various bridge maintenance engineers and recommend remedial measures in case a structure is found to be in dangerous condition.

Neither the auditing firm nor the company responsible for repairs could be reached for a comment.

First Published: Mar 15, 2019 23:34 IST

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