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Close shave in airport collapse

Calcutta, March 12: A shed at the exit of the domestic terminal of Calcutta airport came crashing down, injuring three persons, as the city experienced an unusually early and ferocious nor’wester. The storm also took a toll of a 100-metre stretch of the airport’s perimeter wall, along Kaikhali, which gave way in the rain.

Things could have been much worse had the last arrival not occurred 30 minutes before the crash. An Air Sahara flight arrived around 4 pm — the shed crashed half-an-hour later — and most passengers had left. The few who were stranded in the wind and the rain were waiting inside the lounge.

Although only three persons were injured, none of them seriously enough to warrant a visit to a hospital, the crash — accompanied by a deafening noise — sparked panic at the terminal with most people thinking it was either an aircraft that had plunged into the building or a bomb blast.

The three who needed medical attention from the airport doctor are Central Industrial Security Force personnel B.N. Pande taxi-driver Bhola Das and British national Ian Grant Savidge. When the accident occurred, wrenching out the steel pipes and bringing down the tin shed, officials had feared a higher casualty.

Fire-brigade personnel and ambulances were called in as security guards threw a ring around the 150-ft-by-40-ft structure, which was one of the two erected in 2001. “I braved the rain to flee as I thought I was lucky to be alive,” taxi-driver Swapan Patra said, summing up the initial reaction of witnesses.

“There are so many much-weaker tin sheds in the vicinity but none of them gave way like this,” an airport official said. “How is it that this shed, barely two years old, suddenly gave way like this'” Other officials said similar structures, at the entrance to the domestic terminal, would be inspected tomorrow.

Officially, the authorities refused comment till the probe is over. “It was, prima facie, the wind that brought down the shed,” senior airport manager G. Mukherjee said. “There is going to be an inquiry and I cannot say anything before that,” he added.

Confusion followed the crash. A part of the domestic lounge was engulfed in darkness as the power supply failed, partially, and it was left to passengers to use the entrance to the domestic lounge for both entry and exit.

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