Lucknow: An under-construction flyover in Varanasi collapsed on Tuesday evening, leaving at least 18 dead and many more trapped under the debris.
Though initial reports confirmed the death of 12 people, unconfirmed sources said more than 50 people could have been killed in the incident. Sixteen bodies have been recovered from the site, a spokesperson of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), which sent a team to assist in relief and rescue operations, said.
Director-general of police O.P. Singh said several people are feared trapped under the collapsed under-construction flyover. Rescue operations are underway, he said.
The state government has announced a sum of Rs 5 lakhs each to the families of the deceased and Rs 2 lakhs each to those injured.
The flyover was being constructed by a state government agency and Chief Minister Yogi Adityanadh has set up a three–member committee to probe the reasons for the accident. The committee will submit its report within 48 hours
According to reports, two pillars and a girder of the Chaukaghat-Lehertara flyover in Varanasi’s cantonment area collapsed, burying several people, most of them laborers and passersby, under the debris. A number of vehicles, including a bus, were crushed under the debris.
In a major security lapse, the laborers were working at the site without safety equipment and traffic was also being allowed alongside the under-construction flyover.
Rescue operations began with at least three JCBs removing the debris. However, removing the girder proved to be a tough task due to lack of space and surging crowds. Gas cutters were used to cut out the debris.
A boundary wall next to the flyover has also been demolished to allow bigger construction vehicles to assist in operations.
Deputy chief minister Keshav Maurya, who holds the PWD portfolio, has also reached the accident site. All hospitals have been put on alert in Varanasi as more persons buried under the debris are to be taken out.
District magistrate Yogeshwar Ram Misra, who was at the spot, said on phone that a medical team was also at the site of the incident and the priority was to rescue people.
Varanasi is the parliamentary constituency of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Mr Modi said the Uttar Pradesh government was monitoring the situation. “Extremely saddened by the loss of lives due to the collapse of an under-construction flyover in Varanasi. I pray that the injured recover soon. Spoke to officials and asked them to ensure all possible support to those affected,” he tweeted. In another tweet, he said he had spoken with UP Chief Minister and the state government is monitoring the situation very closely.”