By late Thursday night, 21 people had been confirmed dead and perhaps a dozen more were thought to be trapped under a mass of of concrete and metal debris in Kolkata, where the collapse of a 100-metre stretch of a flyover that was still being constructed plunged the Burrabazar area into chaos.

But even as the rescue operations were still underway, Kolkata residents were certain they knew exactly what had caused the disaster: corruption, politically motivated deals, and callous contractors cutting corners.

“If you mediawaalas had done your job before the flyover collapsed and reported about the corruption involved in the building of this flyover, maybe this horrible tragedy could have been avoided,” said one autorickshaw driver as he headed to the Vivekanada Flyover

At the site, rescue workers were scrambling through the rubble. A senior official of the company that was building the flyover described the tragedy as an "act of god". But that didn't convince bystanders. They were certain that this was a man-made disaster ‒ and that it was only a matter of time before another tragedy occurred.

Smaller cranes that had been used earlier in the day on Thursday proved ineffective against the sheer mass of the debris. So the National Disaster Response Force borrowed more powerful machines from the site of a nearby infrastructure project.
Smaller cranes that had been used earlier in the day on Thursday proved ineffective against the sheer mass of the debris. So the National Disaster Response Force borrowed more powerful machines from the site of a nearby infrastructure project.
It took workers several hours to lift each concrete slab. Each jerk and twitch of the concrete was watched uneasily by the rescue teams.
It took workers several hours to lift each concrete slab. Each jerk and twitch of the concrete was watched uneasily by the rescue teams.
Surrounded by ancient mansions, this busy intersection was at the heart of this neighborhood. Residents are still coming to grips with the enormity of the tragedy.
Surrounded by ancient mansions, this busy intersection was at the heart of this neighborhood. Residents are still coming to grips with the enormity of the tragedy.
Police officers, the Army, the Central Reserve Police Force and the National Disaster Response Force joined hands with local residents, traders association and small NGOs in the initial stages of the operation.
Police officers, the Army, the Central Reserve Police Force and the National Disaster Response Force joined hands with local residents, traders association and small NGOs in the initial stages of the operation.
By midnight, only a third of the debris had been completely cleared. At least ten people were still under the rubble at that stage, officials feared.
By midnight, only a third of the debris had been completely cleared. At least ten people were still under the rubble at that stage, officials feared.
Rescuers watch a slab being lifted.
Rescuers watch a slab being lifted.
Each steel girder that was lifted weighed several tons. The rescue operation was made even more difficult by the unending flow of locals, inching closer to the collapse site, making it virtually impossible to place the girder on a safe spot.
Each steel girder that was lifted weighed several tons. The rescue operation was made even more difficult by the unending flow of locals, inching closer to the collapse site, making it virtually impossible to place the girder on a safe spot.
The congestion of the site meant made it difficult for two cranes to be pressed into work at the same time.  So different cranes with different capacities were constantly moved back and forth, while rescue operations waited impatiently.
The congestion of the site meant made it difficult for two cranes to be pressed into work at the same time. So different cranes with different capacities were constantly moved back and forth, while rescue operations waited impatiently.
Gas cutters were used to hack through the tangle of steel cables on top of the debris.
Gas cutters were used to hack through the tangle of steel cables on top of the debris.
Two army columns and three medical teams were sent to support the rescue operations.
Two army columns and three medical teams were sent to support the rescue operations.
This white car, pulverised beyond recognition, became the source of much anxiety. A pair of trousers, drenched in blood, was fished out of it but there was no body to be found.
This white car, pulverised beyond recognition, became the source of much anxiety. A pair of trousers, drenched in blood, was fished out of it but there was no body to be found.
The progress in clearing this section remained painfully slow. The NDRF team explained that both sides needed to be cleared, before this slab could be lifted. They hope to finish before noon on Friday.
The progress in clearing this section remained painfully slow. The NDRF team explained that both sides needed to be cleared, before this slab could be lifted. They hope to finish before noon on Friday.
The operations continued all night.
The operations continued all night.

All photos by Tanushree Bhasin.