Rescuers were searching on Friday for the labourers trapped in the debris of an under-construction bridge which collapsed in Kota district of Rajasthan on Thursday, even as two officials of the private companies constructing the bridge were arrested and an administrative inquiry was ordered into the incident.
The death toll in the mishap went up to nine with three more bodies recovered from the debris on Friday, while 14 critically injured workers were still hospitalised. Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, who visited the site on Friday morning, said 30 to 40 persons were feared trapped or drowned in the accident.
The bridge, being constructed over the Chambal river as part of the proposed East-West Corridor on National Highway No. 76, caved in on Thursday. Gammon India and a Korean company, Hyundai, were building it at a height of 50 metres on the upstream of the Chambal near a bypass on the Kota-Udaipur route, 20 km from Kota city.
According to the eyewitness accounts, the prospects of finding survivors were bleak as about half of the bridge was partially submerged in the river following the sudden collapse of 150-foot-long portion of the massive structure, where a large number of labourers were working. A huge quantity of the debris fell into the river as well.
Police have registered a case under Sections 304 (culpable homicide not amounting to murder) and 308 (attempt to commit culpable homicide) of the Indian Penal Code and started investigations after arresting the Hyundai chief project officer and the Gammon India deputy manager.
Official sources said both of them had been lodged at the Kunhari police station and would be produced in the court on Saturday for the remand proceedings.
Mr. Gehlot, after inspecting the site, ordered an inquiry into the collapse of the bridge to be carried out by Kota Divisional Commissioner P. L. Agrawal and Public Works Department’s Additional Chief Engineer. The National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) will also conduct a separate inquiry. Union Minister of State for Surface Transport Mahadev Singh Khandela, who arrived at the accident site on Friday, announced an immediate Central assistance of Rs.10 lakh to the next of kin of each deceased and Rs.2 lakh each to those injured. The State government has already announced an ex gratia relief of Rs.2 lakh to the relatives of each deceased.
In addition to the heavy cranes and other rescue equipment requisitioned from the Rajasthan Atomic Power Station at nearby Rawatbhata, the naval divers have been called from Ahmedabad and Delhi for conducting search operations in the river. The Army, police and fire personnel were also assisting in the search.
The sources said the senior officers looking after the rescue operations on the spot were planning in late evening to demolish the under-construction portion of the bridge as it was tilting and was likely to fall.
Most of the labourers trapped in the debris are from West Bengal, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.
The bodies of the deceased were sent to Kota, while the injured labourers have been admitted to Maharao Bhim Singh Government Hospital and Fortis Hospital in the city.