The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Flyover slab caves in with men at work

Pakuria (Howrah), Jan. 29: An under-construction flyover collapsed here today killing one and injuring several others.

A 120-metre concrete slab, part of the base of the 900-metre flyover, caved in, trapping several labourers underneath.

Panic-stricken labourers employed by RBM-Pati, a joint venture company from Malaysia that had undertaken the construction at the behest of the National Highway Authority of India, fled the scene.

The flyover, adjacent to the Pakuria overbridge, was under construction for the past six months but work on the Rs 5-crore project had been stalled for several weeks because of a dispute between the state government and the highway authority.

The flyover was meant to smoothen traffic flow along national highways 2 and 6, which converge near Pakuria.

According to preliminary police investigations, portions of the support system of the newly-laid concrete slab were removed “prematurely”.

“Normally, the support system underneath an under-construction flyover is removed several weeks after the concrete has been laid. Here, it was removed in 10 days. This led to the collapse,” said additional superintendent of police (rural) L.N. Meena.

So far, no one has been arrested. No charges of negligence have been levelled either.

Shafiqul Mondol, the labourer who died, was from Nadia’s Hanskhali.

“At the moment, the rescue operation is top priority, but we will definitely take appropriate action at the right moment,” said Meena.

None of the senior officials of the Malaysian firm were willing to speak. The administrative manager of RBM-Pati, Rajib Banerjee, said “sabotage” and not negligence caused the cave in. “We have no explanation to offer about any technical fault. This could be sabotage, but I cannot say anything further on this issue,” Banerjee said.

After the initial panic — that the whole structure might give way — subsided, the workers organised themselves and converged on the debris to try and extricate their trapped colleagues. A crane and a pay-loader were pressed into service. Several tonnes of concrete was lifted.

Eight persons were rescued. Most of them were provided first-aid at the Westbank Hospital near here and released.

Officials later said almost 650 tonnes of debris had to be removed, which gives an indication to the scale of the collapse.

Three of the injured — Shekhar Roy, Shaukat Ali Mondol and Abdul Sadek Mondol — are in hospital. Doctors said Sadek was in a critical condition with serious injuries to his chest.

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