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Monday 23 July 2018

Indian police consider overpass collapse murder charges as death toll reaches 26

The partially collapsed overpass in Kolkata (AP)
The partially collapsed overpass in Kolkata (AP)

Indian police are investigating possible murder charges against 10 construction firm employees who were either arrested or detained over the collapse of an unfinished overpass in Kolkata that killed at least 26 people.

Rescuers have continued clearing rubble from the scene of Thursday's accident.

Sixty-nine people have been pulled out alive, but authorities said they doubted more survivors would be found.

Judge Sanchita Sarkar of the Kolkata city court remanded three arrested employees of IVRCL Infrastructure Co, which was contracted to build the overpass, to police custody for nine days for questioning and investigation.

Seven other company employees were detained for questioning, police said.

The employees were being questioned regarding possible charges of murder and culpable homicide, punishable by death or life imprisonment, and criminal breach of trust, which carries a prison sentence of up to seven years.

Rescue workers pulled out two more bodies from under the rubble on Saturday, raising the death toll to 26.

The bodies were pinned under concrete slabs and were recovered by emergency workers at the crash site.

Police believe there may be more bodies under the debris.

While most of the injured have been discharged from the hospital, 18 were still being treated.

IVRCL Infrastructure, based in the southern city of Hyderabad, was contracted in 2007 to build the overpass, a project that was expected to take two years. But construction was far behind schedule.

The overpass spanned nearly the width of the street and was designed to ease traffic through Kolkata's densely crowded Bara Bazaar neighbourhood.

The structure fell within hours of concrete being poured into a framework of steel girders on Thursday.

"We completed nearly 70% of the construction work without any mishap," said IVRCL official KP Rao.

"We have to go into the details to find out whether the collapse was due to any technical or quality issue," said Mr Rao who was not among those detained on Friday.

Two West Bengal state engineers overseeing the construction of the overpass were suspended from jobs pending an inquiry into the disaster.

Around 100 residents of several buildings near the collapsed overpass were ordered to vacate the buildings, where some of them have lived for generations.

Government engineers said the buildings have been weakened from the impact of the overpass collapse and it would be risky for them to stay in the nearly 100-year-old tenement buildings.

Press Association

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