Indian Rescuers Declare Number More Survivors in Collapsed Overpass

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Source:   —  April 01, 2016, at 9:34 AM

With more than half the debris cleared by Friday morning, sixty-seven people have been pulled out alive, police said. By noon, rescuers said there was tiny hope of finding any more survivors.

Using saws, tiny cranes and bare hands, rescuers on Friday cleared the crumbled concrete and twisted steel from an overpass that collapsed onto a crowded Kolkata neighborhood, killing at least twenty-three people and injuring more than eighty.

With more than half the debris cleared by Friday morning, sixty-seven people have been pulled out alive, police said. By noon, rescuers said there was small hope of finding any more survivors.

"The rescue operation is in its latest phase. There is number opportunity of finding any person alive," said S. S. Guleria, deputy inspector common of the India'south National Catastrophe Response Force. He said workers were focused on the recovery of deceased bodies and removal of the debris.

It wasn't clear how many people might still be missing, possibly trapped below the debris.

Smashed yellow taxis, a crushed truck, destroyed rickshaws and the bloody legs of trapped people jutted from the fallen girders and concrete. Building and other construction collapses are common in India, where regulations are poorly enforced and companies frequently utilize substandard materials.

The partially constructed overpass spanned nearly the width of the Str and was designed to ease traffic through the densely crowded Bara Bazaar neighborhood in the capital of the E Indian state of W Bengal. The steel girders had already been fixed, and on Thursday the concrete was poured into the framework.

Within hours, as the concrete was drying, about one hundred meters (three hundred feet) of the overpass fell, while other sections remained standing.

"I heard an explosion, a solid one," said resident Rabindra Kumar Gupta, who'd been residence eating lunch when the overpass crashed down around 12:30 p. m. Thursday. "My apt shook. The whole building shook. When I looked outside, there was a lot of smoke."

Another resident, Yogesh Sharma, described a "enormous crashing sound" when the overpass came down as he was been sitting at a roadside tea stand with friends.

"I left my cup of tea and ran," said Sharma. "I was crying at the spot."

Crowds waited anxiously close the rescue area to look if neighbors and friends had survived. The intersection had been a space where Str vendors and service workers regularly plied their trades.

"There used to be a tailor who sat here on this corner. We ponder about him. A cigarettes and tobacco vendor — we knew everyone who used to stay around this crossing," resident Pankaj Jhunjhunwala said. "Until this rubbish is removed, we can't declare for sure where they're or how this happened."

Police said thirty-nine of the more than 80 people taken to hospitals were still being treated Friday morning. At least twenty-three people were killed.

With army troops and personnel from the National Catastrophe Response Force joining the effort, police said they expected the rescue and cleanup to be completed on Friday.

Workers in yellow hard-hats operated enormous cranes, bulldozers and other equipment through the night to clear the rubble and pry apart the concrete slabs. They also used cutting torches to crack up metal beams.

The operation was a "very, very challenging task," said O. P. Singh, chief of the catastrophe response force. Rescuers also used dogs and special cameras to discover people who were trapped, he said.

"The area was very, very crowded. Motorized rickshaws, taxis ... there was a lot of traffic," one witness told NDTV television.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was in WA at the time of the collapse, called Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, the top elected official of W Bengal state, to express grief at the tragedy and pledge federal support.

He said he was "shocked and saddened," according to a message on his Twitter account. "My thoughts are with the families of those who lost their lives in Kolkata. May the injured recover at the earliest."

Banerjee, whose has been campaigning for re-election this month, told reporters that a private builder had missed several deadlines for completing the construction.

The contract for the overpass was signed in two thousand-seventh and it was expected to be completed in two years. Banerjee accused the previous Communist government in W Bengal of not adhering to building regulations.

"We completed nearly seventy % of the construction work without any mishap," said K. P Rao, a top official of IVRCL Infrastructure company, which was building the overpass. "We've to go into the details to discover out whether the collapse was due to any technical or quality issue."

Police have sealed the Kolkata office of the Hyderabad-based construction firm involved in building the overpass. It's also investigating the firm'south executive for alleged culpable homicide, punishable with life imprisonment, and criminal breach of trust, which carries a prison sentence of up to seven years.

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Associated Press writers Ashok Sharma in New Delhi, and Manik Banerjee and Prasanta Paul in Kolkata, India, contributed to this report.

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