Police register case of culpable homicide against absconding contractor

The sight of the collapsed structure of the upcoming new church cast a pall of gloom over the residents of Aroor despite a blazing sun beating down over them on Tuesday.

They woke up to mangled steel rods, crumbled pillars, crushed cement blocks and bent beams of what till the other day was a beautiful church in the making.

Despite accounting for all 22 workers reportedly on work when the structure collapsed on Monday evening, the rescue operations at the site were continuing all day through on Tuesday.

The police said that two were dead and the rest suffered injuries of different degrees. The last of the survivor was rescued around 3 a.m. and was later pronounced dead at the Cherthala Taluk Hospital, a police officer posted on duty at the disaster site said.

Meanwhile, the police have booked Prakash, the contractor responsible for the building of the church, under Section 304 of IPC for culpable homicide not amounting to murder. Mr. Prakash, a native of Pallikkunnu in Puzhathi village, Kannur, has been absconding after the accident.

Police said that his mobile was last tracked to a tower limit within Ernakulam but went on switch off mode since around 7 p.m. on Monday. Police were confident of arresting the accused shortly.

A preliminary investigation by the police had attributed the collapse to lack of sufficient support mechanism and safety measures by the contractor. Samples of collapsed building materials will be collected and examined using the expertise of a district-level structural expert to ascertain the quality of construction, police said.

The rescue operations carried out by the Fire and Rescue Services personnel and the police received a fillip when a team of National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) from Aarakkonam joined the operations in the early hours of Tuesday.

The State-of-the-art equipment like the enhanced victim location camera connected to a four-metre-long extension pipe showed how ill equipped and ineffective the local disaster management arrangements were. The camera could be extended deep inside the debris through narrow gaps helping to detect the presence of victims trapped under.

This left unanswered questions why the local disaster management machinery was not being provided similar equipment. The last phase of the rescue operations, which involved clearing a collapsed main beam, proved tough as the wet cement on the floor had got set in the bright sun, making it difficult even for the two excavators to move the rubble.

Thankfully, the misplaced enthusiasm of the people to witness the rescue operations endangering the life of the rescue personnel and those trapped under the debris alike on Monday waned significantly on Tuesday facilitating smoother rescue operations. The local residents who were seen at the accident site on Tuesday rued the death of Biswanath, a Bihar native, who had settled down in Aroor more than three decades ago. “He was known here as Bhai and was running a pan masala kiosk till a year ago when the State government banned it. Since then, he was doing construction works for a livelihood,” said Joseph, a local resident. He was one of the four migrants among the 22 workers engaged for the church construction.

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