Poor maintenance blamed for deadly Calcutta bridge collapse

Up to 20 people were feared trapped under the debris. (Courtesy Twitter)
Updated 05 September 2018
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Poor maintenance blamed for deadly Calcutta bridge collapse

  • Dramatic footage captured on a security camera shows how a busy Calcutta street turned into carnage
  • Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said the first priority was to rescue the injured and those who were trapped

DUBAI: Poor maintenance has been blamed for a bridge collapse that has killed at least five people in south Calcutta, in the state of West Bengal in eastern India.
Images of the Majerhat road bridge show a broken section of the 40-year old highway that appears to be roughly 30 meters long.
Speaking to the Arab News, a Calcutta resident who did not wish to be identified said: “There is total pandemonium in the area with distraught bystanders present and rescue teams trying to manage the situation. This is hampering rescue operations.”
He added that the death toll was expected to rise, as rescue workers struggled to rescue any survivors.
“There is speculation that the maintenance work on many bridges in the city of Calcutta has not been regular,” he added. “The onus falls on the authorities. The Majerhat bridge is a case in point. The volume of heavy and light traffic over the bridge has increased over the years since it connects two parts of the city. This traffic has not been regulated or controlled. The number of cars plying over it has obviously increased and thousands commute daily over the bridge.”
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said the first priority was to rescue the injured and those who were trapped, according to a Press Trust of India report.
The bridge, that collapsed at around midday on Tuesday, was built in the late 70s, according to Calcutta resident Jason Pote.
“At that time, the area was not developed since the city had not witnessed the construction and residential boom then. This bridge was built for low-volume traffic. The gradual increase in traffic occurred with the construction of a free port area nearby. Port containers and other heavy cargo then began to move across this bridge at nights to be offloaded at other parts of the city. The lack of maintenance therefore made it an accident waiting to happen.”
Pote added that the crash “would affect a lot of people. The Majerhat bridge and a parallel bridge, the Durgapur Bridge, carry people from the developed areas to the central business districts of Calcutta.
“People will now find it tough to reach their destinations. There are very little options. The local police will be under pressure to regulate alternative traffic routes in a city which is renowned for traffic jams.
“There are six schools on the main road itself. So, from 8 a.m. - 8.30 a.m. there will be mayhem since it is school times. Each school has probably around 2,000 students and this is a conservative number. This means 10,000 passengers travelling daily in over 2,500-3,000 vehicles looking for alternative routes which will be affected.”
Arab News tried to contact Derek O’Brien, a member of Parliament and spokesman for the All-India Trinamool Congress, the ruling party in West Bengal, but was unable to get a comment.


Pelosi scrapped Afghan trip after Trump ‘leaked’ details

Updated 15 min 42 sec ago
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Pelosi scrapped Afghan trip after Trump ‘leaked’ details

WASHINGTON: US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Friday excoriated her political nemesis, President Donald Trump, for “outing” her commercial trip to Afghanistan after barring her from using a military aircraft, forcing her to scrap it entirely over security concerns.
The brawl between the no-nonsense Republican leader and the take-no-prisoners Democrat — who is now just two heartbeats away from the presidency — is the latest round in their shutdown showdown.
The federal government has been shuttered for four weeks over Trump’s insistence that a wider budget measure include billions of dollars for a wall on the border with Mexico — and Pelosi’s refusal to do so.
Their spat spilled into the diplomatic arena on Thursday when, after Pelosi suggested that Trump postpone his State of the Union address until the government reopens, the president grounded her military flight.
Pelosi accused Trump of being “very irresponsible” in breaching security protocol.
“We had a report from Afghanistan that the president outing our trip had made the scene on the ground much more dangerous because it’s just a signal to the bad actors that we’re coming,” she told reporters.
The administration strongly denies that it “leaked” any plans about the trip to a war zone.
“The idea we would leak anything that would put the safety and security of any American at risk is a flat-out lie,” a senior White House official said.
The US government shutdown, which has left about 800,000 federal workers without a paycheck, is now the longest in the country’s history — and there is no sign of a compromise.
The Office of Management and Budget reportedly issued a memorandum saying that “under no circumstance during a government shutdown” can a congressional delegation use government aircraft for travel.
However, Republican Representative Lee Zeldin led a delegation to Iraq and other countries since the shutdown began.
Pelosi’s office sounded off on the administration’s handling of her trip, which had not been announced for security reasons.
The State Department released an updated assessment stressing that Trump’s announcement of the Pelosi travel “had significantly increased the danger to the delegation and to the troops,” her spokesman Drew Hammill said.
“This morning, we learned that the administration had leaked the commercial travel plans as well.”
Democratic lawmakers have expressed outrage.
“As a former member of the Intelligence Committee who has traveled to Iraq and Afghanistan, disclosing ANY Members’ travel into a war zone is disgraceful and dangerous,” tweeted House Democrat Jan Schakowsky.
“This is unprecedented.”
Trump lashed out at Pelosi once again on Twitter, asking why she and other Democrats would leave the country “on a seven day excursion when 800,000 great people are not getting paid.”
And then his re-election campaign team released a tongue-in-cheek shutdown-related campaign fundraising request.
For a contribution of $20.20, a reference to the next election year, the campaign told supporters it would send a fake red brick to Pelosi and Democratic Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer — to build a wall.