12 injured, several trapped under debris

One person was killed and 12 were injured and 10 more were feared trapped under the debris when the main beam of the new building under construction at St. Augustine’s Church at Aroor, near here, collapsed on Monday while the concreting work was under way. The accident occurred when the temporary structure erected for constructing the main beam that connected the spans of the main hall of the church collapsed, according to local people present at the site.

Viswanath, a labourer from Bihar, was killed in the accident that occurred at around 6.30 p.m. The injured were shifted to Lakeshore Hospital at Kundannoor and Ernakulam General Hospital. Ten more persons were suspected to be buried in the debris when this report was being filed at 8.45 p.m. More than 20 workers from northern India, Tamil Nadu and local neighbourhood were engaged in the work and a person from Kannur had undertaken the construction contract, according to preliminary reports.

Five units of the Fire and Rescue Services were rushed to the site along with more fire tenders from Alappuzha and Kottayam. A crane was brought to the accident site to clear the debris.

Union Minister of State for Civil Aviation K.C. Venugopal said that District Collectors of Ernakulam and Alappuzha were contacted immediately and directed to coordinate the rescue operations.

Residents near the site remembered hearing a loud thunder immediately before the hall caved in. Kunjumon, who resides just behind the church, said the structure that came down had an approximate height of 35 ft.

Jerly, another local resident, said the concreting work of the main hall started in the evening. “I remember seeing workers in action when the evening mass started at 5 p.m. I stayed for a bit longer after the mass ended at 5.45 p.m. The beam came down after the thunder at around 6.30 p.m.,” he said.

He said the Fire and Rescue Services units and police reached the site in about 20 minutes and by that time, six victims were removed from under the debris and moved to the hospital. The National Highway was blocked during the peak traffic hour and the police later opened one track to clear the traffic holdup.

The crowd that thronged the church compound had to be moved out as they hampered the rescue works. Antony, another local resident, said that 550 bags of cement weighing 50 kg each were being used for the concreting work on Monday. The construction work had started nearly a year ago. Only a section of the new building was completed when the accident occurred.

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