India Overpass Collapse Kills 14; Many Feared Trapped

KOLKATA, India (AP/Reuters) -
A general view of the collapsed flyover in Kolkata, India, March 31, 2016. REUTERS/Rupak De Chowdhuri TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A general view of the collapsed overpass in Kolkata, India, Thursday. (Reuters/Rupak De Chowdhuri)

Rescuers in Kolkata dug through large chunks of debris from an overpass that collapsed while under construction Thursday, killing at least 14 people and injuring scores of others, officials said.

A section of the overpass in the busy Bara Bazaar residential and shopping area in central Kolkata fell on vehicles and people moving underneath, trapping scores in their cars, trucks and motorized rickshaws.

“We heard a loud rumble and then saw a lot of dust in the sky,” a witness told the NDTV channel.

Army troops and personnel from the National Disaster Response Force joined efforts to extract people from vehicles that lay under massive concrete blocks and metal debris. Huge cranes and other rescue equipment reached the site and began clearing the rubble. Workers also used gas-fueled cutting torches to pry open the slabs.

More than 70 injured were admitted to two hospitals in Kolkata, the capital of West Bengal state, hospital officials said. At least 14 were dead, they said.

“The area was very, very crowded. Motorized rickshaws, taxis … there was a lot of traffic,” one witness told the NDTV.

Mamta Banerjee, the top elected leader in the state, visited the collapse site and said a private builder had missed several deadlines for completing the overpass.

The contract for the overpass was signed in 2008 and it was expected to be completed in two years. She accused the previous Communist government in West Bengal of not adhering to building regulations.

Building collapses are common in India, where there is poor enforcement of building regulations and builders use substandard materials. Construction projects in India have long been plagued by lax safety standards.