| A passenger, shaken but alive, is helped out of the private bus that fell to its side on Sunday. Picture by Sanjoy Chattopadhyaya
Azhar Hussain, 43, a Jorasanko resident, was on his way to Bhowanipore on Sunday in a packed private bus on route 3B. Around 10 am, the bus sped down Jawaharlal Nehru Road, went under the Park Street flyover and accelerated as it approached Jeevan Deep.
Wondering when he would get a seat, Hussain grasped the handrail and looked out of the windscreen. Suddenly he noticed that a milkman on a bicycle had emerged from Middleton Street and cut into the road directly in front of the bus.
The bus driver noticed the cyclist a moment too late, stepped hard on the brakes, and swerved. Moments later, the bus lay on its left, about 150 metres from the Park Street flyover, near Tata Centre.
Its passengers were trapped inside, since the vehicle had no emergency exits. The air was heavy with the smell of burning rubber and leaking diesel.
Fifty-five persons were injured, of whom two were admitted to SSKM Hospital in a serious condition.
'Munna Devi, 70, suffered multiple fractures in her leg, while Jaishree Dubey, 15, received serious injuries on her hip,' a police officer said.
'Passengers standing and those seated along the right side were tossed to the left, landing on those seated that side. There was utter chaos in the tangle, as everyone tried to get out, but the gates were inaccessible under the weight of the bus,' said 47 year-old advocate Durga Das Bhuin, one of the injured.
Bhuin had locked his arm around the handrail, but his effort backfired as a number of passengers were thrown upon him, and his forearm snapped.
Police arrived and broke the windshield and windows to gain access into the bus. The traumatised passengers were extracted one by one. A few people were trapped under the dislodged seats, and police used a wrecker to lift the bus and extricate them.
Soon, the emergency department of SSKM was filled with the accident victims. Noor Jahan Begum, 32, had fractured her hand and her daughter Kaynat, 10, received injuries on her head and back, but were sent away after first-aid.
Also awaiting medical attention were Baragarani Bera, 70, her son Khagen and grandson Ratan.
Around 7.15 am, the trio was travelling in a taxi down Jawaharlal Nehru Road towards their Behala residence, when the vehicle swerved suddenly near Jeevan Deep to avoid colliding with a private car in front. However, another taxi slammed into it from behind.
According to traffic policemen, the intersection is a latent death trap, waiting for disaster. Cars speed down the flyover, and with slower vehicles moving from under the flyover and out of Middleton Street, collisions are inevitable.
'Today's bus accident could have resulted in many fatalities,' an officer observed.
Earlier, around 6.20 am, an unidentified 15-year-old boy was hit by an unknown vehicle at the intersection of Kidderpore Road and Lovers' Lane and was admitted to SSKM Hospital in a semi-conscious state.