Under construction flyover collapses in Varanasi, 18 dead
Toll likely to rise as dozens feared trapped in mishap in PM’s constituency

A portion of an under construction flyover, near the railway station here, collapsed on Tuesday killing at least 18 persons while more were feared trapped under the debris.

Eighteen bodies have been recovered from the Varanasi flyover collapse  site, UP Relief Commissioner Sanjay Kumar told PTI in Lucknow. The incident occurred post-noon, and some vehicles, including a bus, were crushed in the collapse, he said. At least three persons had been rescued, a National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) official said.

Two pillars of the under construction flyover collapsed bringing a huge slab of concrete down, crushing cars and a local bus under it. Three people were pulled out of the debris. Many of those trapped were reported to be labourers who were working on the flyover. “It is feared that several people are buried under the rubble,” an official said. Some vehicles were also crushed in the incident, they added.

Seven teams of the National Disaster Response Force or NDRF, each comprising 45 personnel, are leading the rescue operations. There were reports of the Varanasi District Magistrate office asking for assistance from the Indian Army to carry further the rescue operations. Eight cranes were deployed to lift the debris and a crane with a 200 tonne lifting capacity was also called in. Home Minister Rajnath Singh took stock of the situation. “He also spoke to the district magistrate of Varanasi who has apprised him of the incident. The @NDRFHQ teams have been rushed to the spot for rescue operations,” the minister’s office tweeted.

Chief minister Yogi Adityanath expressed grief over the incident and announced a compensation of Rs 500,000 for kin of those killed and Rs 200,000 for those injured in the mishap. Adityanath has also set up a three-member committee to probe the flyover collapse. The chief minister directed the district administration and PWD officials to take all necessary steps for relief and rescue operations. Deputy chief minister Keshav Prasad Maurya was on his way to the mishap site.

Varanasi is the parliamentary constituency of the prime minister. Addressing party workers at the BJP headquarters in New Delhi in the evening, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, “I am happy about the victory in Karnataka but on the other hand, I am saddened by the loss of lives in Varanasi. I extend my condolences to the families of the deceased and assure that the government will do whatever it can to support these families.” Earlier he had tweeted, “The UP Government is monitoring the situation very closely and is working on the ground to assist the affected.”

Meanwhile, the opposition targeted the state government over the tragedy. “This is the reality of development in the top-priority constituency of the country. The ministers of the state used to visit this district for regular inspections. Is this incident an accident or result of corruption? This should be told to the people of Varanasi by the state government,” Former chief minister and Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav said. Yadav also appealed to his members to assist the rescue teams. He also tweeted, “I hope the government will not just wash their hands off by paying compensation, rather will order a fair investigation.”

Built at a cost of Rs 129 crore by the Uttar Pradesh State Bridge Corporation was scheduled to be inaugurated in December but could not due its delayed schedule. The span which fell was laid in February.