Experts and senior police officers said casualties might have been high had the incident occurred during rush hours on a working day. According to the police, a truck carrying marble slabs rammed into the right side of the flyover’s seventh pillar on the EM Bypass-bound flank, causing the portion to cave in with deafening sound at around 4 am.
Local residents, who were woken up by the loud thud, rushed out of their homes imagining an earthquake had struck. But they soon discovered that a 60-meter-long and 7.5-meter-wide concrete portion of the flyover had crashed on the canal bank, raising a thick cloud of dust. The mangled truck lay next to it, stuck to the caved-in segment.
Locals rescued the three trapped truck occupants writhing in pain and bleeding profusely. The police and fire services department were informed, and help arrived shortly, along with members of the police’s disaster management group, who joined in the rescue operation.
The truck’s 32-year-old driver, Khalek Mohammad and one of his helpers, 26-year-old Sheikh Majid, were admitted to the RG Kar Medical College Hospital. The third person, 22-year-old Sheikh Saifuddin, was first admitted to the Bidhannagar sub-divisional hospital but was later shifted to a private hospital off the EM Bypass when his condition deteriorated.
The police, as a precautionary measure, shut both flanks of the flyover. Senior police officers managed disaster site with personnel from both the Kolkata Police and Bidhannagar City Police.
Experts said that the heavily-laden truck hit a joint on the flyover’s curve at high speed, which loosened the base-plates, causing the collapse.
“The flyover had allegedly developed cracks a couple of years ago and was examined by experts, who had then claimed the problem was not related to maintenance but a technical glitch in the bolt system,” said an expert.
State urban development minister Firhad Hakim and local MLA Sujit Bose reached the spot along with officials from the Kolkata Metropolitan Development Authority (KMDA).
The minister said action would be taken against engineers if technical defects were found to be responsible for the collapse. He added that a third-party inspection of the entire flyover had been ordered following instructions from chief minister Mamata Banerjee.
Governor M K Narayanan, talking on the sidelines of a city event, expressed concern over the incident, terming it as “unfortunate”.
“We have registered a suo motu case at the Laketown police station against the agency responsible for the construction of the flyover. A case has been registered under section 279, 338, 427 and 308 of the Indian Penal Code,” said Rajeev Kumar, Commissioner of Bidhannagar City Police.
He also said that, with Madhyamik examinations scheduled on Monday, the police were trying to ensure the flank towards VIP Road was kept open. “We will open the flank for traffic on Monday, if KMDA gives us their approval after inspection. Otherwise, we will deploy more traffic personnel in and around the area for better traffic management,” Kumar said.