Twenty-three days after a section of Vivekananda Flyover in Girish Park area of north Kolkata caved in, killing 27 people, leaving 80 others injured and turning into a political hot potato for the ruling Trinamool Congress, the last of the debris was cleared on Saturday.
The West Bengal government had been eager to clear the debris not just to clear a traffic bottleneck on a busy commercial street in a congested part of the city but also to remove from sight what was being used by the Opposition parties as an election issue.
After the state chief secretary put in a request with the Railway Board chairman, the Indian Railways, on April 7, had accepted what looked like an engineering challenge. The PSU Rail Vikas Nigam Limited (RVNL) was given the job, even though no railway arm had any experience in taking on an assignment like this before.
The intended 2.2-km under-construction flyover, which collapsed after a 490-foot steel span fell during construction, thew up a unique challenge. Its girders were woefully close to decades-old buildings on both sides of the road. The structure, officials said, had to be cut into large pieces and moved without damaging the buildings and creating civilian distress.
RVNL pressed into service several huge “diamond cutters” to cut the flyover’s remains into pieces and deployed a 180-ton crane to move the material. Satish Agnihotri, CMD, RVNL, said: “Since the buildings were so close to the flyover, we could not risk any structure falling on them while work was going on. So we joined the two flanks of the bridge by welding (them) so that it doesn’t collapse on the road.”
After about 10 days of work, the accumulated debris— several truckloads — were handed over to the Kolkata Metropolitan Development Authority, which owns the bridge and had awarded the work contract to the Hyderabad-based firm IVRCL.
Under fire, the Trinamool Congress had maintained that work contract of the flyover was awarded by the erstwhile Left Front government.
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