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Search off, ministers visit spot

Raiganj, Aug. 23: The North Dinajpur district administration called off the rescue operations at Domohona, 24 hours after a Bailey bridge collapsed there yesterday.

The collapse had left one woman dead. Seven others had been pulled out of the water. The family of Phulobala Devi will be given Rs 50,000 by the Bengal government, said civil defence minister Srikumar Mukherjee, who visited the spot today. The minister said the search had not yielded any injured survivors or bodies.

The three students of Rahatpur High Madarsa who were reported missing by their parents, returned home this morning. They had been at a fisherman’s house near the site of the collapse.

After a meeting with the district magistrate and the officers of the NHAI, Mukherjee said from now on heavy vehicles would travel to north Bengal from Calcutta through the Gajole-Harishchandrapur-Paranpaur-Katihar-NH 31 route, a detour adding 40km to the distance.

Light vehicles and buses will take the single-lane Bengal-to-Bengal road (see map), travelling an extra distance of 20km.

At Writers’ Buildings, Calcutta, finance minister Asim Dasgupta said chief secretary Amit Kiran Deb has already spoken to the Union ministry of surface transport for immediate repair of the bridge.

At 1.10pm yesterday, a concrete pillar on which the Bailey bridge had been laid, caved in. As a result, the Bailey bridge shot up in the air like a seesaw. Two hours later, another concrete portion under the bridge collapsed with one of its ends hitting the iron planks of the Bailey and throwing many into the river.

Information and broadcasting minister Priya Ranjan Das Munshi visited the site today and so did army engineers. Munshi blamed the state for the accident. “I had asked them to send a formal request repeatedly. I had told them specifically about this bridge and the one at Kulik,” he said. Das Munshi had arrived in an Indian Air Force helicopter from Bagdogra and was joined by his wife and Goalpokhar MLA Deepa.

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