Kolkata bridge collapse: Rescue operations on, suo-motu case lodged (Lead)

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Kolkata : Rescue operations continue on Wednesday after a portion of a 40-year-old bridge collapsed in south Kolkata a day earlier, even as a suo-motu case has been lodged against the persons responsible for the accident. Two persons are still reported missing.

A part of the Majherhat Bridge between Taratala and Mominpur collapsed around 4.30 p.m. on Tuesday in south Kolkata, crushing a person to death and injuring 19 others.

"Two persons are still missing and a suo motu case has been lodged under IPC 304 and 308 against responsible persons," police said.

Four teams of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), fire brigade and personnel of disaster management teams are at the spot.

Cranes have been deployed and gas cutters are being used for the rescue operation. Three columns of army personnel are also present at the spot.

"Our team is still working on the rescue. Overnight and this morning, we tried to dig holes on the concrete slab decks that caved in to find out whether anyone is still trapped underneath.

"Cameras are also being used to find out what remains below the debris. Removing the rubble would take more time," a member of the rescue team said on Wednesday.

The West Bengal government has initiated a probe into the incident. "Investigations are going on. At this point, we cannot come to any conclusion regarding the possible reasons behind the accident," a member of the forensic team said.

Pedestrians and commuters in buses and cars who were on the collapsed structure were rescued.

The bridge was the main connector between central and southwest part of the city. Due to the partial collapse of the bridge, traffic has been diverted. Tram services on some routes have been withdrawn, a Kolkata Traffic Control official said.

Goods vehicles' movement has been restricted on some of the arterial roads between 6 a.m. and 11 p.m.

State government will pay a compensation of Rs 5 lakh to the family of Soumen Bagh, who died in the accident.

State Urban Development Minister Firhad Hakim said on Tuesday that heavy construction work of the metro project beside the collapsed bridge could have weakened its pillars.

City metro railway authority, however, ruled out any such possibility.

Amid blame game over the partial collapse of the bridge, the Eastern Railway said it was not conducting any maintenance work at the accident site.

However, experts said the bridge was very old and as such structural defect or use of inferior quality material cannot be cited as the reason for the collapse.

They said the bridge has been withstanding heavy vehicles for more than 40 years and that the only reason that may have triggered the collapse could be "lack of maintenance".

According to a state official, the 40-year-old bridge was constructed by the Kolkata Port Trust and maintained by State Public Works Department.

However, a Kolkata Port Trust official said it does not have any records that show the bridge was constructed by it.