Mohammad Gibran received a distress call from his aunt at 2:30 PM, appealing for help. "She called me from under the debris. She said she's trapped. Please Help me," Gibran told the Ananda Bazar Patrika the day a flyover under construction in a busy intersection in Kolkata collapsed, killing at least 20 people. A 100 people are feared trapped.
A Call From Under The Concrete
The frantic Gibran had no news of his aunt till the evening, the paper reported.
A resident of Brabourne Road in the city was found crying inconsolably. Passersby told the paper that she was on the phone with her sister when she heard a loud noise. The phone line got disconnected and since then she's had no news of her.
Residents used their bare hands to try to dig out the 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, Reuters reported.
Resident Ramesh Kejriwal told Reuters he was planning to go downstairs to have juice when he saw the bridge collapse.
35-year-old Shabana Farooqui was on her way to pick up her children from school. "Till now we have not received any information. Some bodies have been sent to Marwadi hospital and some to another hospital. So we have been moving from one hospital to another. Due to lack of information there is no coordination either. We have searched almost seven hospitals. We are still not sure whether she is alive or dead," her family told CNN-IBN.
The Whole Sky Came Down
Amzad Hussain, a roadside fruit seller, said the incident took place at around 12:10 PM.
"It appeared that the whole sky came down. The sound was deafening and the whole area was trembling. Initially I thought it was an earthquake. In fact, seeing people running helter skelter I ran away from my shop and as I found a massive dust swirling in air, I realised that the bridge has collapsed," Amaz told PTI.
Hundreds of rescue workers combed through rubble early today, searching for survivors, CNN reported. Maj. Gen. Anurag Gupta of India's National Disaster Management Authority told CNN that he could not predict how long the rescue efforts would last. "We cannot predict how many people are still under wreckage.. since it's a bridge and not a building," he said.
Locals rushed to the spot and started the initial rescue work before informing police and fire office. Teams of policemen, state disaster management teams, CRPF, CRP, Armymen poured in as locals climbed upon the rubbles in an attempt to rescue survivors at the scene, where multiple vehicles including cars, auto rickshaw were crushed and trapped under the bridge.
Kins, family members were hysterically moving around with printouts of parents and asking policemen whether they have been spotted from the underneath the collapsed portion of the bridge in the central part of the city.
Anxious relatives of Ajay Kondai and his wife Sarita, who lived in the nearby Natunbazar Rajbari locality, handed out their photos to locals. The couple were passing by the area when the bridge happened. Phone calls to their numbers remained unanswered.
Later, the duo were declared dead at Calcutta Medical College Hospital.
"I thought he was dead. I was crying and asking locals whether they can spot him underneath the rubble ...Suddenly, somebody told me that Vikash was on the other side of the road," an emotional Sujit Shaw told PTI. His son Vikas recalled the moments of horror.
"I was crossing the road. Suddenly, I for no reasons felt like sprinting... Trust me there was no reason, I just felt like running and cross the road.. I know that it's because of Hanumanji I have survived the collapse. I have got a new lease of life", said Vikash.
"I thought it was an earthquake when my living room started shaking," Amar Tiwari, who lives on the Kali Krishna Tagore Street, told The Telegraph. "A chunk fell on a bus, then a stall and then the Posta police kiosk and the Kali temple... and then the whole area got covered in dust," he told the paper.
"Sab Chor Hai"
The people trapped under chunks of concrete were shouting for help. Bloodied body parts stuck out of the debris and enraged locals greeted Mayor Sovan Chatterjee and Disaster Management and Fire Minister Javed Khan with slogans of “chor hai, sab chor hai” (You are all thieves).
The police said that 21 persons died in the incident in Burrabazar area, which houses the city's largest wholesale market, while at least 88 others were injured. Fifteen of the dead were identified while the identification process of the rest were on, police said.
The injured were rushed to hospitals in the vicinity. Two policemen, injured in the collapse were discharged, while Sandip Haldar, a sergeant of Jorabagan traffic guard, was still reported to be critical.
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West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, camping at the site, said "it is not the time to play politics. Rather we should work for the rescue and relief of the injured." Banerjee later visited Calcutta Medical College and Hospital and inquired about the condition of the injured.
The CM, who cut short her election campaign to reach the site, said rescue operations will go on until the roads were cleared. In a related development, Kolkata Police registered a case against the Hyderabad-based construction firm IVRCL under sections 304, 308 and 407 of the IPC and sealed the local office of company engaged in the flyover's construction.
"It is nothing but God's act," claimed Panduranga Rao of IVRCL, drawing all-round flak. Chief Secretary Basudeb Banerjee said that a high level inquiry has been ordered into the flyover collapse. Meanwhile city police Commissioner Rajeev Kumar handed over a report about the incident to the Chief Minister.
Five columns of Army personnel (about 300 in number) along with NDRF, state disaster management, city police and fire brigade personnel are involved in the rescue operations. West Bengal Governor K N Tripathi, who visited the spot, sought a report of the incident from the state government.
(Inputs from PTI)