Indian company charged in Kolkata overpass collapse

02:17 - Source: CNN
Several killed by bridge collapse in India

Story highlights

NEW: A man says he couldn't recognize the charred bodies of his parents, who both died after the collapse

At least 24 died when the concrete crashed down; search efforts could end Friday if no one else is found

Kolkata police question 12 from the construction company building the overpass, a police official says

Kolkata, India CNN  — 

Indian construction company IVRCL faces charges of attempted murder, mischief and criminal conspiracy in connection with the collapse of an overpass in Kolkata, said Nurul Absar, who heads a police station in that city and filed the case.

At least 24 people died midday Thursday when a section of a bridge that was under construction crashed down onto the streets of Kolkata’s Girish Park area.

Police brought in 12 people from IVRCL for questioning Friday, Kolkata police official Debasish Boral said. It was not clear how many of them, if any, will be formally arrested or charged and, if so, on what counts.

While there was no immediate response to the charges from the company Friday, an IVRCL executive has said the whole thing was not his construction company’s fault.

“It’s nothing but a God’s act,” K. Panduranga Rao of the Hyderabad-based company told reporters, according to CNN IBN. “So far in 27 years, we have constructed several number of bridges … it never happened.”

That’s not to say, though, that bridges or other overpasses under construction haven’t collapsed before in India.

A bridge fell on an express train in Bhagalpur in 2006, killing 37 passengers. Three years later, 30 workers died after scaffolding on a bridge being built in Kota crashed down.

And in eastern Kolkata, not far from Thursday’s collapse, a fully constructed overpass collapsed in March 2013. That sent a truck careening into a canal, though the people inside were rescued.

It’s not clear what role, if any, IVRCL had in any of those incidents.

Rao’s comments drew fervent criticism on social media, with some calling for engineers and executives behind the project to be punished.

“Only the poor victims are to blame!” an incredulous Jayaprakash Narayan, a doctor and Loksatta Party founder, wrote on Twitter. “How dare they use roads?”

Friday’s charges, then, represent the first step toward levying official blame – and punishment – on those involved in building the bridge instead.

Search effort wrapping up

The 2-kilometer Vivekananda Overpass project had been in the works for years. It was supposed to be finished five years ago, only to be plagued by delays.

About 100 meters (328 feet) of the overpass buried moving cars and pedestrians, quickly setting off a frantic rescue operation. Civilians and authorities took part, spraying water, carrying out debris and doing whatever else they could to save those trapped in the rubble.

They were later replaced by an army of hard-hatted rescue crews, who toiled under bright lights and used heavy machinery to lift wide slabs of fallen concrete.

Ahhiskek Kanoi’s parents were among those who didn’t make it. He told CNN that their burned bodies were found in “very bad” condition.

“I couldn’t even recognize them,” Kanoi said.

His grandmother lamented afterward that “there is no limit to hardship and sorrow in life.”

“My heart bleeds with pain. He was my only son,” she said of Kanoi’s late father.

Eighty other people were pulled out suffering injuries, but at least alive, said Maj. Gen. Anurag Gupta of India’s National Disaster Management Authority.

As of late Friday afternoon, there hadn’t been any rescues for hours. While there was still work to be done – at least three trucks remained pinned under a large concrete slab at that time, while volunteers busily passed off water to rescuers at the site – it’s not likely to go on for much longer.

“They are coming to the end of the operations,” Gupta told CNN. “More or less, the debris has been cleared.

“By this evening, if they don’t find anyone else, they will stop the search.”

CNN’s Sugam Pokharel reported from Kolkata, and CNN’s Greg Botelho reported and wrote from Atlanta. CNN’s Sumnimna Udas and Huizhong Wu contributed to this report.