Indian police today opened a case of culpable homicide against the infrastructure company building a flyover that collapsed onto a crowded district in Kolkata, India yesterday, killing at least 24 people and injuring many more.
As of midday 90 survivors, many severely injured, had been rescued after emergency teams worked all night with cranes, stonecutters and jackhammers to clear concrete and steel girders from the 100-metre-long section of the flyover that collapsed without warning, crushing pedestrians and vehicles in the dense Girish Park district.
The chief minister of West Bengal state, Mamata Banerjee (pictured), has said those responsible for the collapse "would not be spared".
Five officials from IVRCL, the Indian firm building the 2km Vivekananda Road flyover, have now been detained by police.Â
An executive of IVRCL drew condemnation last night when he called the collapse an "act of God" during a television interview.
Yesterday the Hyderabad-based firm issued a statement saying it "grieves the loss of precious lives and injuries to people" and pledging to cooperate in the investigation.
But the statement took a defensive stance, saying "Such an incident has occurred for the first time in the company’s history".
IVRCL said that so far 59 sections of flyover, totalling about 0.9km in length, had been completed successfully, and that the collapsed section was the 60th.
"The design of the flyover has been made by a reputed consultant from Kolkata," the statement said, adding: "The Project Manager and Engineers deployed at this site are highly experienced in constructing large and complex projects."
The company’s shares fell 5% after the collapse yesterday and a further 6% today as police announced they had opened a case of culpable homicide.
A civil engineering professor at Kolkata’s Jadavpur University expressed doubts over the stability of the structure.
"There can be many reasons for the collapse of a under construction flyover," Prof. Arup Guha Niyogi told news agency IANS. "It seems there may be some problems related to stability. There may be insufficient steel girders used or faulty placement of steel girder could lead to this collapse."
He added: "Since the concretisation was done yesterday [Wednesday], the concrete remains in a weak state in which it has weight but has not acted as the load-bearing structure."
According to IANS the flyover’s foundation was laid in 2008 and work began on February 24, 2009.
The collapse has been politicised. The state of West Bengal faces a phased election throughout April and May, with polling starting on 4 April.
The state’s chief minister Mamata Banerjee, who won in a landslide election victory in 2011, said those responsible for the collapse would not be spared, but she also she blamed the previous state government that had awarded the flyover contract in 2007, Reuters reports.
However, she is likely to face a grilling about a construction project that has been plagued by delays during her tenure in power.
Photograph: Mamata Banerjee, chief minister for West Bengal state, India (Biswarup Ganguly/Wikimedia Commons)