On most days, 19-year-old Prantika Goswami’s commute from college to home was humdrum. Every evening, after classes ended, the student of Travel and Tourism Management would take a bus from Joka in South Kolkata, get off at the Police Training School at AJC Bose Road, and head towards her Bhawanipore home. But on Tuesday evening, disaster struck.
As her bus was about to cross the Majerhat bridge at 4.40 pm, Goswami saw that that the structure was collapsing. She jumped out of the front exit of the vehicle just before it plunged into the canal below. A few hours later, she was brought to central Kolkata’s Seth Sukhlal Karnani Memorial Hospital, unconscious. Several of Goswami’s friends and relatives waited for news in the hospital’s emergency ward. “At least, she managed to avoid something serious,” said one of them
Others were not as lucky. The bridge collapse left one person dead and least 20 others injured. Behala’s 28-year-old Soumen Bag, who was riding on a friend’s scooter, was pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital. His friend Papai Roy, is still being treated in the intensive care unit.
The Majerhat bridge, thought to be older than 40 years, is located on Diamond Harbour Road in the Alipore area, connects central Kolkata with the densely populated Behala region of South Kolkata, adjacent suburban areas, and extended parts of the South 24 Paraganas district.
At the time of the collapse, a minibus, five cars and three two-wheelers were on the bridge. They crashed into a canal and its slushy banks below. The Telegraph reported that labourers working on a section of the city’s Metro project were thought to be trapped under the debris. The authorities believe that some workers were resting in a tin shed under the bridge. At midnight, the newspaper reported, rescue teams comprising members of the police, fire brigade, civil defence and the National Disaster Response Force were still at work.
Victims from the crash were taken to the Calcutta Medical Research Institute in Alipore and the Seth Sukhlal Karnani Memorial Hospital.
At the Sukhlal Karnani Memorial Hospital, there was anxiety and despair. The mother of Ganesh Prasad was crying near the emergency ward on Tuesday night. Her young son and her son-in-law, Suraj Prasad, in his mid-20s, were both among the critically injured.
“We kept calling him and calling him on his phone,” Ganesh Prasad’s mother said. “We could never have imaged something like this had happened.” A little distance from her, Ranjit Singh groaned on a stretcher. He had injured his back and X-Ray reports of his backbone had just arrived.
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has announced compensation of Rs 5 lakhs for the family of Soumen Bag and Rs 50,000 each for the injured victims. “Action will be taken against those whose negligence caused the accident,” Banerjee was quoted as saying by the Press Trust of India. “No one will be spared.” A team headed by the state’s Chief Secretary, Malay De, is investigating the cause of the crash.
Traffic leading up to, around, and out of the area is being diverted, the Kolkata Traffic Police tweeted, until further notice.
This is Kolkata’s second bridge collapse in two years. In March 2016, a flyover being constructed in Vivekananda Road collapsed, leaving 27 people dead.