The ceiling from where the chunk came off. (Sanjoy Ghosh)
A concrete chunk fell from the ceiling of a first-floor balcony of the 102-year-old Darbhanga Building on Calcutta University’s College Street campus on Wednesday afternoon.
No one was on the balcony when the chunk — about an inch thick and as large as eight bricks placed side by side — came crashing down from the 25ft-high ceiling around 12.30pm.
Darbhanga Building is one of the four administrative buildings on the main campus of the university. The first floor of the building houses the records, diploma and the computer data base sections. The offices were open when the chunk fell.
“There is a wash basin just below the part of the ceiling from where the chunk fell. Had I gone there to wash my hands, I would have been seriously injured. There was a loud sound when the chunk hit the floor,” said Prosenjit Bhattacharya, an employee in the diploma section.
“Apart from employees, students frequent the various departments in the building to collect rank cards and other documents. Fortunately, there was not a repeat of the Baker Building accident,” said Raju Mukhopadhyay, a employee in the records section.
Concrete chunks coming off the ceiling at the historic Baker Building in Presidency University had fallen on two postgraduate students on November 28.
At CU, after the chunk came off, the iron beam in the roof was exposed and cracks appeared in an adjoining part of the ceiling.
The condition of the first-floor ceiling appeared fragile at several other points. There were cracks on the walls adjoining the balcony, too. Water seeps through the cracks during the monsoon, said employees. About six months ago, a fan came off the ceiling in one of the offices in the examination control section.
Officials failed to recall when the building, which came up 55 years after the university had been founded in 1857, last saw an upkeep.
The absence of a permanent engineer at the university for over six years has made matters worse, said sources. A teacher in the chemical engineering department at Rajabazar science college has been officiating as engineer.
The teacher rushed to the spot along with other university officials to inspect the damage, after which the corridor leading to the balcony was cordoned off.
“We fail to understand how a teacher officiating as engineer could oversee civil engineering work. It’s surprising that the university did nothing all these years to fill up the post,” said an official in the records section.
Vice-chancellor Suranjan Das, however, said there was an embargo on recruitment as the university was yet to complete some formalities related to appointment of officials.
“The appointment will be made once we are through with the process. We are consulting the PWD and the National Buildings Construction Corporation Ltd., under the urban development ministry, to draw up a detailed renovation plan,” said Das, who held out the assurance that repairs would start soon.
University sources, however, said the complication over recruitment cropped up only a few months ago, whereas the post has been lying vacant for over six years.