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Pile-up on flyover of puddles

A splash of rainwater from a puddle on the AJC Bose Road flyover triggered a pile-up on Monday afternoon that at least seven passengers, including a baby, were lucky to come out of almost unscathed.

Taxi driver Umesh Singh said the chain-reaction crash occurred when he was forced to slam the brakes by a lorry that was overtaking him from the left, splashing water into the vehicle like a tidal wave.

“I was blinded by the gush of water and I braked,” he recounted.

A Beat immediately rammed into the taxi and a goods vehicle hit the Beat from behind. A fourth vehicle, a Swift Dzire that was trailing the goods vehicle, crashed into it and turned sideways.

Ujjwal Banerjee, a 60-year-old law firm employee in the front passenger seat of the Dzire, was among those who escaped the pile-up with minor injuries. “The driver and I came out through the right door. We were both in a daze. The police arrived a little later,” said Banerjee, nursing a bruised left hand.

An unidentified couple with a baby were in the taxi involved in the crash, which occurred around 2pm.

The baby was unhurt but the parents had a few cuts and bruises.

They quickly got into another taxi and left the scene, cabbie Umesh said.

Bibhas Roy, the 71-year-old owner of the mangled Beat, said he felt a jolt before realising that the car was sandwiched between a lorry and a taxi.

His driver Raju Sardar recalled braking the moment he realised that the taxi had halted, only to be hit by the goods vehicle from behind twice.

“We crashed into the taxi on impact,” he said.

For around an hour after the accident, only one lane of the west-bound flank was open for vehicles to pass. Normality was restored after breakdown vans towed away the damaged cars, of which the Beat could spend the longest time in a garage.

A 40-metre stretch of the west-bound flank of the flyover, overlooking Nizam Palace and Camac Street, was about three inches deep in water when the pile-up occurred.

As monsoon approaches, the accident was a repeat warning of the dangers lurking on flooded Calcutta roads, including what is supposed to be one of Calcutta’s best stretches to drive through.

A senior engineer of a private infrastructure company said letting rainwater accumulate on a flyover, of all places, was an invitation to trouble.

“A flyover has pipes running down every pier to drain out rainwater. The road length between two piers includes a slope towards the drains so that no water can accumulate,” he said.

So why have puddles formed on the AJC Bose Road flyover, currently the city’s longest?

“Resurfacing without taking care to maintain the slope can change the gradient and lead to waterlogging,” the engineer said.

A senior official of the Hooghly River Bridge Commissioners that built the AJC Bose Road flyover and is responsible for its upkeep, said he was unaware of any such drainage problem.

“I do not know of any stretch of the flyover where water accumulates after rain. The police have never written to us about it.”

Dilip Adak, the deputy commissioner of traffic police, said his department would write to the HRBC about it.

“Waterlogging is a problem here but I am not sure whether anyone has written to the HRBC before about this.”