Highway overpass collapses in India, killing 18 people

LUCKNOW (AP) – A highway overpass being built in north India collapsed, killing 18 people when an immense concrete slab slammed down onto the crowded road below, officials said yesterday.

Five injured people were pulled from the wreckage, police said. Two were seriously hurt.

Local media reports said four officials from the Uttar Pradesh state construction agency were suspended in the wake of the Tuesday collapse.

Rescuers and crane operators worked through much of the night in the city of Varanasi to search for survivors and clear the wreckage, which crushed cars, motorcycles and a bus. But fears that many more people were trapped were unfounded and the road was reopened yesterday morning.

The slab appeared to be at least 15 metres long and two metres wide.

People look for survivors inside vehicles crushed when a section of an under construction overpass collapsed in Varanasi, India, on May 15. – AP

“There was a sudden rumble and within seconds we saw” the vehicles crushed, resident Ramesh Kumar Singh said in a telephone interview. “It took at least a minute for the people around to realise what exactly had happened.”

Most of those killed were in vehicles travelling beneath the overpass, said senior police officer PV Ramasastry.

The state’s top official ordered a probe into the collapse. He also announced a 500,000 rupee (USD7,200) payment to families of those who died.

India has a long history of construction accidents caused by poor materials and inadequately trained workers. In 2016, a long stretch of elevated road being built through the city of Calcutta collapsed, killing 26 people and leaving 11 injured.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, whose political home is in Varanasi, tweeted that he was “extremely saddened” by the accident. “I pray that the injured recover soon.”