5 Construction Company Officials Held After India Overpass Collapse - NBC Bay Area
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5 Construction Company Officials Held After India Overpass Collapse

Kolkata police said the five officials from IVRCL Infrastructure Co. were detained Friday for questioning about why the overpass fell

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    Excavator machines remove debris of a partially collapsed overpass in Kolkata, India, Friday, April 1, 2016.

     

    Police in India detained five officials from a company building an overpass that collapsed onto a crowded Kolkata neighborhood, killing at least 24 people and injuring more than 80.

     

    A day after the collapse in the crowded area of the eastern city of Kolkata, rescuers cleared the crumbled concrete and twisted metal rods. They had pulled 67 people alive.

    "There is no possibility of finding any person alive," said S.S. Guleria, deputy inspector general of the India's National Disaster Response Force. Engineers are being consulted about a part of the bridge still hanging over the disaster area, after which workers will "slowly start dismantling this particular section to avoid any collateral damage to houses around it."

    The five employees who were detained worked for the Hyderabad-based IVRCL Infrastructure Co., which was contracted in 2007 to build the overpass. Police also sealed its Kolkata office.

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

    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 meters (300 feet) 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 bloody 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 percent of the construction work without any mishap," IVRCL official K.P Rao said Thursday. He was not among those detained on Friday. "We have to go into the details to find out whether the collapse was due to any technical or quality issue."

    Police said 39 of the more than 80 people taken to hospitals were still being treated Friday morning.

    As workers in yellow hard-hats operated huge cranes, bulldozers and other equipment to clear the rubble and pry apart the concrete slabs Friday morning, crowds of people waited anxiously to see if neighbors 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," said O.P. Singh, chief of the National Disaster Response Force.

    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.