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No more survivors in flyover collapse that killed at least 25 people

Five construction company employees have been arrested.

Source: Bikas Das

Updated 10.20pm

RESCUE OFFICIALS HAVE said there are no more survivors trapped under the rubble of a flyover that collapsed killing at least 25 people in India.

Police have detained five construction company employees over the accident.

Emergency workers using specialist equipment have pulled nearly 100 people out alive from under the huge concrete slabs and metal girders that fell onto a busy street in the eastern city of Kolkata yesterday, crushing cars and pedestrians.

“The rescue operation is almost over as there are no more survivors. We are trying to extricate a body from a truck buried under the wreckage,” Anil Shekhawat, a spokesman for the National Disaster Response Force, told AFP.

“As of now 25 people have died.”

Earlier police said the rescue operation would not stop until all the blocks of concrete and iron girders had been cleared, with hundreds of rescuers, including army personnel, working around the clock.

Arrests

Police said they had detained five employees of IVRCL, the contractor behind the construction project, which has denied responsibility for the disaster in the capital of West Bengal state.

“Five people of the Hyderabad company have been detained for questioning,” Kolkata deputy commissioner of police Akhilesh Chaturvedi said, referring to the contractor.

Another police official speaking on condition of anonymity said the five “hold senior positions in the company”.

Source: Bikas Das/AP

The officials from IVRCL are being investigated for culpable homicide, punishable with life imprisonment, and criminal breach of trust, which carries a prison sentence of up to seven years, police said.

The company signed a contract in 2007 to build the overpass, and was far behind schedule for the project’s completion.

Source: Bikas Das/AP

The partially constructed overpass had spanned nearly the width of the street and was designed to ease traffic through the densely crowded Bara Bazaar neighborhood in the capital of the east Indian state of West Bengal. Within hours of concrete being poured into a framework of steel girders on Thursday, about 100 metres of the overpass collapsed.

“I heard an explosion, a solid one,” said resident Rabindra Kumar Gupta, who had been home eating lunch. “My apartment shook. The whole building shook. When I looked outside, there was a lot of smoke.”

Smashed yellow taxis, a crushed truck, destroyed rickshaws and the legs of trapped people jutted from the fallen girders and concrete.

The construction company was far behind schedule for the overpass.

“We completed nearly 70% of the construction work without any mishap,” IVRCL official KP Rao said yesterday. He was not among those detained today. “We have to go into the details to find out whether the collapse was due to any technical or quality issue.”

Source: Bikas Das/AP

Challenging

As workers in yellow hard-hats operated huge cranes, bulldozers and other equipment to clear the rubble and pry apart the concrete slabs this morning, crowds of people waited anxiously to see if neighbours and friends had survived. The intersection had been a place where street vendors and service workers regularly plied their trades.

“There used to be a tailor who sat here on this corner. We wonder about him. A cigarettes and tobacco vendor — we knew everyone who used to stay around this crossing,” resident Pankaj Jhunjhunwala said.

Rescuers also used dogs and special cameras to find people who were trapped, he said.

The operation was a “very, very challenging task,” OP Singh, chief of the National Disaster Response Force, said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was in Washington at the time of the collapse, said he was “shocked and saddened”, according to a message on his Twitter account.

- contains reporting from © AFP 2016

Read: At least 20 dead as bridge collapses on crowds in India>

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