One person was killed and eight were injured when 13 slabs of the under-construction Eastern Freeway collapsed near Shanti Nagar in Wadala here late on Thursday night.
Rescue operations were going on when last reports came in even as the fire brigade and the police did not deny the possibility of some more persons being trapped under the debris.
Officials denied initial media reports that it was the monorail slabs which gave way. But due to the absence of any officials of the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) at the site, it could not be confirmed initially. Officials of the Fire Brigade, off the record, told The Hindu that the slabs of the freeway, a 16-km stretch which is slated to connect the eastern Express Highway to South Mumbai’s Colaba region, fell down.
At least four vehicles including an oil furnace tanker and a concrete mixer were crushed under the slabs. The oil from the tanker leaked after the tanker broke open, and spilled on the entire stretch of road nearby.
The names of the dead or the injured could not be known immediately. The injured were rushed to the Lokmanya Tilak Hospital and the King Edward Memorial Hospital.
“The sections between two pillars of the freeway collapsed at around 9.15 pm. We know that at least four vehicles are trapped inside. They include one Maruti car, one Meru cab, a concrete mixer and a furnace oil tanker. We have called for cranes to relocate the slabs, as they will have to be lifted for the vehicles under them to be freed,” a Fire Brigade official told The Hindu.
Local residents said the slabs had loosened in the past few days. “They were tied by a rope. The rope probably gave way. As soon as we heard the noise, we came rushing,” wife of the local coporator, Uma Mahant Chaubey, told The Hindu.
She said the locals rescued nine persons from the debris while she called the ambulances and the Fire Brigade. Six fire engines were seen at the spot. Local politicians rushed to the spot and some people started shouting slogans against the administration.
The residents who were involved in the rescue operation said that at least three persons are feared dead. “We think at least three mechanics died. We recovered their body from the broken slabs. We all jumped on the slabs to see if someone was trapped inside, then we pulled out people. We had sent the people to hospital much before the ambulances and the Fire Brigade reached the spot,” Imtiyaz Sheikh and Melu Gupta, residents of Shanti Nagar slums here said.
Dilip Kawathkar of the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) which is building the Eastern freeway said that one segment of the freeway collapsed. It is divided into three segments. It was the second segment, the Anik Panjrapole portion, that collapsed.
He clarified it was not the monorail but the freeway which is a roadway that was damaged. In May the MMRDA issued a press statement, after the visit of metropolitan commissioner Rahul Asthana, saying the Rs. 800-cr. project would be completed by this year-end.
“The Eastern Freeway was necessitated after the city of Mumbai began experiencing phenomenal growth in population, which was 11.9 million in 2001 and is expected to touch the 14-million mark in 2016,” said Mr. Asthana.
Keywords: Mumbai freeway mishap