Two days after an under-construction bridge collapsed in the Chambal river in Kota district of Rajasthan, the death toll of labourers trapped in the debris went up to 28 on Saturday with the recovery of 19 more bodies. Two officials arrested in connection with the mishap were remanded by a court to police custody for five days.
Rescuers continued to search for about 50 persons missing since Thursday when the bridge, under construction as part of the proposed East-West Corridor on National Highway No. 76, caved in. Those feared trapped in the debris include an engineer working with South Korean company Hyundai Engineering, which is one of the two firms jointly engaged in the construction.
The two arrested officials – J. Y. Hue, chief project manager of Hyundai, and R. Chattopadhyay, deputy project manager of Gammon India – were produced before a Judicial Magistrate in the city, who sent them to five-day police remand. Both of them have been lodged at Kunhari police station.
Police have also registered a case against 14 officials of Hyundai and Gammon in connection with the mishap and prima facie found them guilty of negligence. The main case has been registered under Sections 304 (culpable homicide not amounting to murder) and 308 (attempt to commit culpable homicide) of Indian Penal Code.
State Public Works Department Minister Pramod Jain Bhaya was camping at the site, where a rescue team comprising about 500 policemen, labourers, Army jawans and naval divers was engaged in the search operations. Over a dozen calamity relief management experts from neighbouring Gujarat have also joined the rescue work.
The district administration has established a control room at the Collectorate in Kota. The bodies of 20 victims were identified by their relatives and arrangements were being made to send them to their native places.
In addition to the 45 workers mentioned in the list provided by the two construction companies to the administration, there were reportedly several casual labourers working at the site, who plunged into the river with the sudden collapse of 150-foot-long portion of the massive structure from a height of 50 metres. Most of them hailed from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Orissa and Punjab.
The authorities looking after the relief operations were considering late on Friday evening whether to demolish a hanging portion of the bridge, as it was tilting and could pose a threat to the ongoing rescue efforts. A group of experts attached to Hyundai was likely to arrive at the site in the night to give advice for a final decision in this regard.
Union Minister of State for Surface Transport Mahadev Singh Khandela, who visited the mishap site on Friday, said the construction companies would be blacklisted if a joint inquiry by the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) and the State government found any deficiency in their work. He said the construction of the bridge was running “almost a year behind schedule”.
Hyundai to sue Gammon
Meanwhile, Malaysian news agency Bernama reported from Seoul, South Korea, on Saturday that Hyundai Engineering had announced that it would file a suit for damages against Gammon India, which is its partner in the construction of the bridge.