Bridge collapses near CWG main venue, 23 injured

With 12 days to go for the Commonwealth Games, a gleaming new steel-and-concrete suspension pedestrian overbridge came crashing down on Tuesday at the main event venue Jawahar Lal Nehru Stadium. The disaster left at least 27 workers injured and heightened concerns about the safety of structures being readied in a mad rush for the October 3 opening. Among the injured, five of them seriously, was a site engineer.

Authorities refused to pin blame on any agency and Delhi government’s Public Works Department, which has been entrusted with several CWG projects, said it had tendered two foot overbridges, including the one destroyed, to a Chandigarh-based company P&R Infraprojects Ltd for Rs 10.34 crore. Work on both the arch-shaped foot overbridges started in March and was scheduled to end this month.

Sarvagya Srivastava, the PWD project manager at the disaster site, didn’t say who was responsible for the bridge collapse. When reporters asked for an explanation, he merely said that two of the clamps holding up the causeway snapped and as the load increased progressively on the other cables, all of these snapped and the edifice came crashing down.

Public works minister Raj Kumar Chauhan told reporters the bridge, linking the stadium’s parking lot to the venue, was meant exclusively for athletes and officials, underlying the lack of attention to facilities tom-tommed as world-class. But later in the day, as fears over safety grew, Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit, while visiting the injured at AIIMS, tried to play it down insensitively by saying the overbridge was meant for ordinary spectators.

Eyewitness said the bridge came crashing down with a thunderous thud at 3.05pm as workers were giving it finishing touches and laying concrete layers on the walkway. “Suddenly, one portion of the FOB on the stadium side collapsed. We saw labourers jumping from the bridge. The entire bridge came down in less than a minute,” said Mohammad Ayub, a worker. He said no medical help was immediately available and the injured had to be rushed to hospital in private cars.

PWD officials, present at the site when the structure came down, said first two pairs of clamps of structures called the Macalloy bar suspenders, imported from Britain, broke and there was a progressive failure of the remaining 11 pairs resulting in the collapse. “The arch is still intact. A proper investigation would reveal what went wrong in this project,” said a senior Delhi government official.

“We are investigating the matter and anyone found responsible for this negligence would be brought to book. However, this will not affect our preparation for the Games,” Chauhan said.

Late in the evening, Delhi government announced a team of experts led by retired CPWD director-general H S Dogra and an IIT teacher to probe the disaster and report back within two weeks.

Police registered a case of causing injury due to negligence and authorities blacklisted the contractor. – timesofindia