At least 18 persons died and several others were feared trapped in the rubble after a portion of an under-construction overhead bridge collapsed in the Cantonment area of Varanasi on Tuesday, officials said. The Chief Minister of the State Yogi Adityanath has left for Varanasi.
Several people and vehicles are still feared buried under the rubble and rescue operations are on. Many vehicles, including two-wheelers, that were passing by were crushed under the weight of the concrete slabs of the flyover, which was being constructed by the Uttar Pradesh State Bridge Corporation.
U.P. Relief Commissioner Sanjay Kumar said while 18 bodies were recovered so far, three persons were rescued from the collapse site by the NDRF, which has deployed five teams comprising 250 personnel for the rescue operation. The toll could go up. "Five injured but out of danger, two seriously injured. Cranes of NHAI have cleared all vehicles," Mr. Kumar told T he Hindu.
The government has formed a three-member committee of senior officials to probe the incident. The committee headed by commissioner of agricultural production Raj Pratap Singh is expected to submit a detailed report to the Chief Minister in 48 hours. "The team is given 48 hours to fully probe the incident, recommend action against the guilty officials and provide report on all grounds including technical matters," a government spokesperson said here.
Holding them prima facie responsible, the government suspended the chief project manager H. Tiwari, project manager K.R. Sudan and an assistant engineer and engineer for the incident. The UP state bridge corporation will now have a safety audit cell, said deputy CM Keshav Prasad Maurya. Meanwhile, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath met some of the persons injured in the incident in Varanasi.
Uttar Pradesh Deputy CM and PWD Minister Keshav Maurya, who was directed by Mr. Adityanath to rush to Varanasi, said, "whoever is guilty will not be spared." Mr. Adityanath, while expressing grief over the incident, announce an ex-gratia compensation of Rs 5 lakh to the kin of the dead and Rs 2 lakh each to the injured.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he was "extremely saddened by the loss of lives" in his constituency. "I spoke to UP CM Yogi Adityanath Ji regarding the situation due to the collapse of an under-construction flyover in Varanasi. The UP Government is monitoring the situation very closely and is working on the ground to assist the affected," the PM tweeted.
Mr. Sanjay Kumar said the under-construction bridge, from Lehartara to Chaukaghat area, was 56% complete and the span that fell was laid in February. The total length of the bridge is 2261 metres and total cost Rs 129 crores, Mr. Kumar said.
The extension work of the bridge started in October 2015. As per sources, the project was to be completed by June end and so far 45 out of 63 pillars had been constructed as part of the extension.
Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav said he hoped the state government would hold a fair investigation and not cover up the incident by only offering compensation to victims. "Is this an accident or result of corruption? The state government must answer the questions posed by the people of Varanasi," Mr. Yadav tweeted.