New Delhi: A section of an over 50-year-old bridge on the arterial Diamond Harbour Road in south Kolkata collapsed on Tuesday evening, killing one person, trapping many others, and crushing several vehicles, police said.
The Majerhat bridge in the crowded Alipore area caved in around 4.45pm during rush hour. It runs over the Majerhat Railway Station and connects the city centre with the heavily populated Behala, the vast area of the south-west suburbs and neighbouring South 24 Parganas district.
Opposition leaders blamed lack of maintenance by the state Public Works Department (PWD) for the collapse, while chief minister Mamata Banerjee ordered a probe and said that those whose negligence caused the disaster would be punished.
Police confirmed the death of one person and said 19 others, including two women were injured. The injured have been admitted to SSKM and CMRI hospitals, the police added. Fire brigade and army personnel engaged in the rescue work had earlier said 25 injured were pulled out from the rubble.
The victim was identified as Soumen Bag, 21, a resident of Silpara in Behala.
Four cars, a minibus and a two-wheeler plunged below as a section of the bridge fell. Cracks could be seen in other parts of the structure.
"There was a temporary office of construction workers under the bridge. Contacts could be established with two of them, who were safe. We are worried about anyone who might be trapped underneath," said chief minister Mamata Banerjee, who was in Darjeeling on Tuesday.
"A probe will be done by a committee headed by chief secretary Malay De to find out the cause of the collapse. Action will be taken against those whose negligence caused the accident. No one will be spared," she said, adding: "It is a crime".
Governor Keshari Nath Tripathi, who went to the spot, said a probe was necessary.
"He... urges the agencies responsible for maintenance of all the bridges in the state to do a thorough examination of the bridges and take corrective measures to maintain those properly," a statement released by his office said.
In a series of tweets, Prime Minister Narendra Modi called the collapse "deeply unfortunate". "My thoughts are with the families of the victims. I pray that those who are injured recover at the earliest," he said.
Home minister Rajnath Singh said he spoke to the CM and assured her of all help from the Centre. Five teams from the National Disaster Response Force were already on the spot and one more was on its way, he added.
Opposition leaders lashed out alleging lack of maintenance and indifference on the part of the state government.
"It is a responsibility of PWD to conduct structural audit of bridges on a regular basis. It is clear that it was not being done. A government that cannot save people's lives and property has no right to rule," said Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) national general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya.
People stand next to the wreckage of vehicles at the site of a bridge that collapsed in Kolkata. (Reuters Photo)
"PWD was in charge and it was indeed a question of lack of maintenance and monitoring. But this is not the hour to apportion blame," said the Left leader in the state assembly, Sujan Chakraborty. The leader of the opposition in the assembly Abdul Mannan also suggested that the reason for the collapse appeared to be a maintenance issue.
"Five construction workers and two cooks were below the bridge. One of them made a telephone call and appealed for rescue," a construction worker told TV channels.
As night fell and rain began, additional arrangements were made for rescue and the area was lit up. Cranes, iron cutters and drills were brought in to remove the debris. Nearby areas had been dug up for Metro rail construction and construction material were seen strewn all over the place.
Rail services below the bridge were stopped immediately apprehending the section on top of the tracks might cave in too. The tracks connecting Sealdah and Budge pass below the bridge.
In 2016, a 60-metre section of an under-construction flyover in north Kolkata's Girish Park area had collapsed, killing 27 people and injuring 90 others.