Antara Das

For alternative route on NH 2

Kolkata: The Army's services were requisitioned to assist the West Bengal government in working on an alternative route on National Highway 2 - part of the Golden Quadrilateral - portions of which had caved in near Asansol early on Tuesday, leading to disruption of traffic and panic in the nearby areas.

Following a request made by Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee on Thursday, the Army authorities decided to send an expert to assess the nature and extent of damage and to assist, if necessary, in the construction of a Bailey bridge as a temporary measure.

An alternative alignment on the Dhanbad-Durgapur route, bypassing Asansol, had already been decided upon, Mr. Bhattacharjee said.

A half-kilometre stretch on National Highway 2 had subsided and multiple cracks had developed on the surface reportedly after an explosion inside an abandoned coal mine in the early hours of Tuesday.

Traffic on the affected parts of the highway had been stopped and vehicles travelling between Dhanbad and Durgapur were being diverted.

Hot water and methane gas were also reported to have spewed out of the cracks that had developed on the surface.

Mr. Bhattacharjee said a team of experts from Coal India and the Geological Survey of India had reached the venue to investigate and determine the exact problem in the subterranean region.

"They will investigate the nature of the gas emanating from underground and the depth at which it is present," he said.

Mr. Bhattacharjee said the cracks were yet to reach the Eastern Railway tracks that run adjacent to the highway. "The expert committee's report, to be submitted within 24 hours, would help to determine how close the cracks are to the railway line," he said.

As a precautionary measure, all trains on the route, including the Rajdhani and the Shatabdi, have been instructed to ply at a reduced speed of 50 km per hour, Eastern Railway sources said.