Many dead and over 100 trapped as overpass collapses on street crowd
An overpass under construction in the bustling Indian city of Kolkata collapsed yesterday on to vehicles and street vendors below, killing at least 14 people, with more than 100 feared trapped.
Residents used their bare hands in attempts to rescue people pinned under a 100-metre length of metal and cement that snapped off at one end and came crashing down in a teeming commercial district near Girish Park.
"The concrete had been laid last night at this part of the bridge," resident Ramesh Kejriwal told Reuters.
Video footage aired on TV channels showed a street scene with two auto rickshaws and a crowd of people suddenly obliterated by a mass of falling concrete that narrowly missed cars crawling in a traffic jam.
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee rushed to the scene.
"We will take every action to save lives of those trapped beneath the collapsed flyover. Rescue is our top priority," she said.
Ms Banerjee said those responsible for the disaster would not be spared. Yet she herself faces questions about a construction project that has been plagued by delays and safety fears.
A newspaper reported last November that Ms Banerjee wanted the overpass - which was already five years overdue - to be completed by February. Project engineers expressed concerns over whether this would be possible.
A co-ordinated rescue operation was slow to get under way, with access for heavy lifting gear and ambulances restricted by the buildings on either side of the flyover and heavy traffic.
Police said that 78 injured were taken to Kolkata's Medical College Hospital after the disaster struck at around noon.
"Most were bleeding profusely. The problem is that nobody is able to drive an ambulance to the spot," said Akhilesh Chaturvedi, a senior police officer.
Eyewitness Ravindra Kumar Gupta, a grocer, said two buses carrying more than 100 passengers were trapped. Eight taxis and six auto rickshaws were partly visible in the wreckage.
"Every night, hundreds of labourers would build the flyover and they would cook and sleep near the site by day," said Gupta, who, together with friends, pulled out six bodies.
"The government wanted to complete the flyover before the elections and the labourers were working on a tight deadline. Maybe the hasty construction led to the collapse."