Overpass collapse just latest construction accident in India

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

NEW DELHI (AP) — When an under-construction overpass collapsed and killed at least 23 people in the bustling east Indian city of Kolkata, the images were shocking: massive fallen steel girders, taxis crumpled under slabs of concrete, a crushed truck, destroyed rickshaws and dozens of people trapped.

What followed was more or less routine in this country of 1.3 billion.

The chief minister of West Bengal state blamed the private builders and the previous government that had commissioned the project. Other officials shot back by accusing her of playing politics. And the builders expressed surprise, calling the accident "an act of God."

Tragic accidents from failing infrastructure, some of it old and some just being built, have occurred regularly as India undergoes a breakneck construction boom. Many projects are mired in messy delays and allegations of corruption. Others are marred by poor quality materials, inadequate supervision, poor safety standards for workers or the outright flouting of building codes.

Construction of the Vivekanand overpass in the northern part of the state capital of Kolkata was expected to be finished in two years when the contract was signed in 2007 with Hyderabad-based IVRCL Infrastructure. But no one was surprised when the company overshot both its budget and several deadlines.

Here are some other major construction accidents in India in recent years.

- April 2013: At least 74 people were killed when an under-construction building collapsed in Thane, a western Indian suburb of Mumbai.

- November 2010: A poorly built residential building toppled in a crowded part of the Indian capital, killing 65 people.

- September 2010: Shortly before India was to host the Commonwealth Games, a suspension bridge outside a stadium crashed onto the road beneath it, injuring 27 workers. The accident became a symbol of the chaos that surrounds India's preparations for the sporting event.

- July 2009: Five workers were crushed to death and 13 others were injured when a section of a bridge being built to carry Delhi's metro trains collapses in a residential neighborhood.