It Looks Like A Bomb Blast Site, Says Company That Constructed The Collapsed Overpass

01/04/2016 4:56 PM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:26 AM IST
Rupak De Chowdhuri / Reuters
ATTENTION EDITORS - VISUAL COVERAGE OF SCENES OF INJURY OR DEATH Rescue members carry a victim from the site of an under-construction flyover that collapsed in Kolkata, India, March 31, 2016. REUTERS/Rupak De Chowdhuri TEMPLATE OUT

Yesterday the city-based IVRCL, which was constructing the flyover that collapsed in a congested part of Kolkata, faced huge backlash for saying that the incident was an "act of god". On Friday, P Sita, the construction company's legal team head, pointed at a newspaper report and said that the area looked like a site of a bomb blast.

A portion of the overpass collapsed around midday yesterday killing 24 people. Sita tried to explain to reporters the reasoning behind K Panduranga Rao's 'act of god' comment. "An act of God was just an expression only to describe that it is under no one's control", he said. Rao is the Group Head (HR & Admin) of the Hyderabad-based company.

"We are surprised and extremely shocked. We are there to cooperate with investigation, but investigation takes time", Sita said.

"Why did this happen? We are anxious to know the reasons," she said. Another official of the company said, "78 per cent work of the flyover is over. A number of clearances have not yet come".

CNN-IBN reported that a case was filed against the company under section 304 of IPC, which refers to negligence not amounting to murder. But now the charge has been converted to section 302 (murder).

Rescuers said there was no hope of finding any more survivors after clearing the crumbled concrete and twisted metal rods. Sixty-seven people were pulled from the debris alive, and by Friday afternoon the wreckage was cleared.

"There is no possibility of finding any person alive," said S.S. Guleria, deputy inspector general of the India's National Disaster Response Force. Engineers are being consulted about a part of the bridge still hanging over the disaster area, after which workers will "slowly start dismantling this particular section to avoid any collateral damage to houses around it."

Police detained five officials from IVRCL Infrastructure Co contracted in 2007 to build the overpass, and sealed its Kolkata office.

The officials are being questioned for possible culpable homicide, punishable with life imprisonment, and criminal breach of trust, which carries a prison sentence of up to seven years, police said. The company signed a contract in 2007 to build the overpass, and was far behind schedule for the project's completion.

The partially constructed overpass had spanned nearly the width of the street and was designed to ease traffic through the densely crowded Bara Bazaar neighbourhood in the capital of the east Indian state of West Bengal. Within hours of concrete being poured into a framework of steel girders on Thursday, about 300 feet of the overpass collapsed.

"I heard an explosion, a solid one," said resident Rabindra Kumar Gupta, who had been home eating lunch. "My apartment shook. The whole building shook. When I looked outside, there was a lot of smoke."

Smashed yellow taxis, a crushed truck, destroyed rickshaws and the bloody legs of trapped people jutted from the fallen girders and concrete. The construction company was far behind schedule for the overpass.

As workers in yellow hard-hats operated huge cranes, bulldozers and other equipment to clear the rubble and pry apart the concrete slabs Friday morning, crowds of people waited anxiously to see if neighbors and friends had survived. The intersection had been a place where street vendors and service workers regularly plied their trades.

"There used to be a tailor who sat here on this corner. We wonder about him. A cigarettes and tobacco vendor - we knew everyone who used to stay around this crossing," resident Pankaj Jhunjhunwala said.

Rescuers also used dogs and special cameras to find people who were trapped, he said.

The operation was a "very, very challenging task," said O.P. Singh, chief of the National Disaster Response Force.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was in Washington at the time of the collapse, said he was "shocked and saddened," according to a message on his Twitter account.

(With inputs from agencies)

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