At least 20 people died and hundreds were injured in a bridge collapse in the eastern Indian city of Kolkata Thursday.
Rescue workers tried to free as many as 100 people believed to be trapped under concrete and metal. Before rescue teams arrived, local residents and firefighters used their bare hands to try to rescue people trapped under the debris.
Witnesses said many people and vehicles, including two buses carrying more than 100 passengers, were under the bridge when it fell. They also said construction workers had set up camps near the bridge site where they would sleep and cook.
The collapsed bridge is in a busy commercial area of Kolkata. Its location has made it difficult for rescue operations. Access to the area is blocked on both sides by buildings, and the streets are blocked with heavy traffic.
Reuters reports that the Chief Minister of West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee, rushed to the scene of the collapse. She said that rescuing those trapped is her “top priority.”
Banerjee said those responsible for the disaster will be punished. Yet she faces questions about the safety of the construction project.
The Telegraph newspaper reported last November that Banerjee wanted the bridge - already five years overdue - to be completed by February.
Project engineers said they were concerned over whether this would be possible, the newspaper said at the time. Construction workers had been on a strict schedule to complete the bridge.
The disaster could affect the West Bengal election next month.
AN Indian company, IVRCL, was building the 2-kilometer bridge, its website said. IVRCL's director of operations said the company was not sure of the cause of the disaster.
I'm Anne Ball.
Ashley Thompson adapted this story from VOANews.com and Reuters reports. Kathleen Struck was the editor.
Words in This Story
debris - n. the pieces that are left after something has been destroyed
rush - v. to move or do something very quickly or in a way that shows you are in a hurry
operations - n. an activity of a business or organization — usually plural