Railway workers cut the collapsed structure on platform 14 of Howrah station after the accident on Monday morning. Picture by Gopal Senapati
A part of the iron scaffold and shed over platform No. 14 of Howrah station collapsed on Monday morning and came crashing down on a stationary train that prevented the heavy structure from falling on the people below.
No one was injured. Passengers, porters and hawkers got time to run to safety.
Four of the seven iron pillars on which the shed stood in the old complex of the station cracked and tilted to one side. “As a result, the overhead structure, including the asbestos sheets, crashed on the roof of the Howrah-Kalka Mail around 10am, a few minutes after it had pulled into the station. Most passengers of the train had left the area by then,” a witness said.
“About 100 people were still around but they managed to run to safety.”
Raja Sengupta, a resident of Howrah’s Bally, had just got down from the train when the incident happened. “There was a crashing sound and as we looked up, we found that a portion of the platform roof was dangerously leaning on the train and the pillars had bent under pressure. We didn’t look again and ran,” he said.
The asbestos sheets were around 75m long.
“The collapsed shed had sharp and rusty edges jutting out of it. These would have impaled anybody on the platform had the train not been there to cut the fall,” said Anjana Dasgupta, who was walking towards platform No. 15 when the shed came crashing down.
The metal sheets and iron scaffold weigh hundreds of kilos and had to be cut into pieces to clear the way for the train to go to the Santragachhi car shed.
The fallen shed on platform 14 was one of the oldest in the station. It was supported by iron pillars on one side, unlike the roofs on other platforms that have support on both ends.
An Eastern Railway official said lack of maintenance, wear and tear and exposure to moisture were the possible reasons behind the collapse.
He said the rundown and rusty shed was at least 50 years old.
A preliminary investigation revealed the pillars supporting the shed tilted and the weight of the overhead structure pushed them further down.
“The tar coating that prevents the roof from getting wet had depleted and the beams on which the shed was resting had bent at several places from exposure to the elements,” said the railway official.
“We have ordered an inquiry,” a senior official added.
Train movement was suspended on platform 14 and 15 for the rest of the day as workers toiled with gas cutters and heavy tools to remove the mangled iron and asbestos shed. The first step was to free the train from the wreckage.
Work was on till late on Monday.
The British-built Howrah station’s old complex has several such poorly maintained sheds, waiting to crumble anytime and put at risk the lives of thousands of commuters.