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Construction firm officials arrested over Kolkata overpass disaster

Published 01/04/2016

An Indian soldier looks for survivors after the overpass collapsed in Kolkata (AP)
An Indian soldier looks for survivors after the overpass collapsed in Kolkata (AP)

Indian police have arrested three officials and detained seven more from a company constructing an overpass that collapsed on to a crowded Kolkata neighbourhood, killing at least 24 people and injuring more than 80.

Rescuers cleared the crumbled concrete and twisted metal rods a day after the collapse in the crowded area of the eastern Indian city. They have pulled out 67 people alive.

"There is no possibility of finding any person alive," said SS Guleria, deputy inspector general of India's National Disaster Response Force. He said engineers were being consulted about part of the overpass 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."

The arrested and detained employees worked for Hyderabad-based IVRCL Infrastructure Co, which was contracted in 2007 to build the overpass. Police also sealed the firm's Kolkata office.

They are being questioned over possible culpable homicide, punishable by life imprisonment, and criminal breach of trust, which carries a prison sentence of up to seven years, police said.

Those arrested are scheduled to appear before a court Saturday which would hear arguments for formally charging them in the case.

The Press Trust of India news agency said seven other employees have been detained for questioning.

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

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 100 metres of the overpass collapsed.

Fearing the collapse may have caused structural damage to about 150 houses in the neighbourhood, authorities asked 62 families of to evacuate immediately while engineers examined the safety of the other buildings, Kolkata Mayor Shovon Chattopadhyay said.

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.

"We completed nearly 70% of the construction work without any mishap," IVRCL official KP Rao said. He was not among those detained on Friday. "We have to go into the details to find out whether the collapse was due to any technical or quality issue."

Patients and their relatives crowded the corridors at Marwari Relief Society Hospital, where at least 30 of the more than 80 injured people were still being treated on Friday.

"We converted a hall into a special ward," hospital management committee member Manoj Gupta said. Doctors were providing treatment free of charge, including x-rays and CT scans.

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