Rescuers said on Friday there was no hope of finding any more survivors after clearing the crumbled concrete and twisted metal rods from an under-construction flyover that collapsed onto a crowded street in Kolkata, killing at least 24 people and injuring more than 80.
Police detained seven officials from a Hyderabad-based construction company contracted in 2007 to build the overpass, and sealed its Kolkata office.
Sixty-seven people were pulled from the debris alive, and by Friday afternoon the wreckage was cleared.
“There is no possibility of finding any person alive,” said SS Guleria, deputy inspector general of the National Disaster Response Force. Engineers are being consulted about a part of the bridge still hanging over the disaster area, after which workers will “slowly start dismantling this particular section to avoid any collateral damage to houses around it.”
The officials from the IVRCL Infrastructure Co. are being investigated for culpable homicide, punishable with life imprisonment, and criminal breach of trust, which carries a prison sentence of up to seven years, police said.
The company signed a contract in 2007 to build the overpass, and was far behind schedule for the project’s completion.
The partially constructed overpass had spanned nearly the width of the street and was designed to ease traffic through the densely crowded Bara Bazaar neighbourhood in the capital of West Bengal. Within hours of concrete being poured into a framework of steel girders on Thursday, about 100 metres of the overpass collapsed.
A day after the Kolkata Police filed an FIR against IVRCL, the company expressed shock and disbelief at the collapse and termed the incident as an accident.
Officials of the construction company said they were not aware of any FIR against the firm or its employees.
“We are also shocked that flyover collapsed and want to know why it happened. This is an accident, how can we fix responsibility on someone,” the legal head of IVRCL said in a presser on Friday.
He added that the incident was not a case of negligence. “The material used in constructing 59 pillars was used in the 60th pillar also. Unfortunately, it collapsed,” he said.
The construction company further said that “several possibilities” including a bomb blast should be investigated.
Reacting to the flyover collapse, an IVRCL official had said on Thursday, “It is nothing but God’s act,” even as another official denied any quality or technical issue as the cause behind the incident “as of now”. The legal head of IVRCL on Friday defended the statement, saying the expression merely meant that ‘nothing was in control’.