DUBAI: Poor maintenance has been blamed for a bridge collapse that has killed at least five people in south Calcutta, in the state of West Bengal in eastern India.
Dramatic footage captured on a security camera shows how a busy Calcutta street turned into carnage as the Majerhat road bridge collapsed, crushing cars and people below.
Later TV reports from the scene showed a broken section of the 40-year old highway that appeared to be roughly 30 meters long.
Up to 20 people were feared trapped under the debris, as well as various vehicles including a minibus, cars and a number of motorbikes.
Speaking to the Arab News, a Calcutta resident who did not wish to be identified said: “There is total pandemonium in the area with distraught bystanders present and rescue teams trying to manage the situation. This is hampering rescue operations.”
He added that the death toll was expected to rise, as rescue workers struggled to rescue any survivors.
“There is speculation that the maintenance work on many bridges in the city of Calcutta has not been regular,” he added. “The onus falls on the authorities. The Majerhat bridge is a case in point. The volume of heavy and light traffic over the bridge has increased over the years since it connects two parts of the city. This traffic has not been regulated or controlled. The number of cars plying over it has obviously increased and thousands commute daily over the bridge.”
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said the first priority was to rescue the injured and those who were trapped, according to a Press Trust of India report.
The bridge, that collapsed at around midday on Tuesday, was built in the late 70s, according to Calcutta resident Jason Pote.
“At that time, the area was not developed since the city had not witnessed the construction and residential boom then. This bridge was built for low-volume traffic. The gradual increase in traffic occurred with the construction of a free port area nearby. Port containers and other heavy cargo then began to move across this bridge at nights to be offloaded at other parts of the city. The lack of maintenance therefore made it an accident waiting to happen.”
Pote added that the crash “would affect a lot of people. The Majerhat bridge and a parallel bridge, the Durgapur Bridge, carry people from the developed areas to the central business districts of Calcutta.
“People will now find it tough to reach their destinations. There are very little options. The local police will be under pressure to regulate alternative traffic routes in a city which is renowned for traffic jams.
“There are six schools on the main road itself. So, from 8 a.m. - 8.30 a.m. there will be mayhem since it is school times. Each school has probably around 2,000 students and this is a conservative number. This means 10,000 passengers travelling daily in over 2,500-3,000 vehicles looking for alternative routes which will be affected.”
Arab News tried to contact Derek O’Brien, a member of Parliament and spokesman for the All-India Trinamool Congress, the ruling party in West Bengal, but was unable to get a comment.