NEW DEHLI –– A highway overpass collapsed Thursday in Kolkata, India, crushing vehicles below, killing at least 22 people and leaving dozens more missing, authorities said.
Major General Anurag Gupta of India’s National Disaster Management Authority told CNN on Thursday night that authorities still didn’t know how many people were driving across that section of highway, called the Vivekananda Overpass, when it fell.
“We cannot predict how many people are still under wreckage,” he said. “We can’t tell since it’s a bridge and not a building.”
Gupta said at least 75 others suffered injuries in the collapse in a busy commercial area north of the eastern Indian city’s center.
At one point, Kolkata police Sergeant Saurav Benerjee said more than 100 were unaccounted for –– though that doesn’t mean they were all necessarily trapped.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted he was “shocked and saddened” by the collapse.
“My thoughts and prayers are with the families of those who lost their lives in Kolkata,” Modi added. “May the injured recover at the earliest.”
India’s army has deployed four columns of rescue personnel, according to a tweet from an Indian Ministry of Defence representative. Three medical teams with two ambulances, doctors and nursing assistants are also there.
And the National Disaster Response Force has five teams at the site, with two more on the way.
Video showed swarms of people on the scene in Girish Park, a crowded neighbourhood with wholesale markets, where one section of the overpass had fallen off. Some carried out pieces of debris, and others used fire hoses to spray water around the debris.
They managed to pull at least 71 injured people from the rubble, the National Disaster Management Authority’s Gupta said. It’s unclear if those rescued were among the people unaccounted for by the police.
Speaking on local TV from the collapse site, Mamata Banerjee –– chief minister of West Bengal state, where Kolkata is the capital –– announced that relatives of those killed in the collapse would get roughly the equivalent of $7,500.
Those critically injured, meanwhile, would get about $3,000 each.
Slabs from the overpass fell on moving vehicles below around midday Thursday –– a busy time in Kolkata, one of India’s biggest cities, Benerjee said.
The overpass had been under construction for five years, which CNN’s Mallika Kapur in Mumbai said is not unusual in India. Several long overpasses that extend more than a mile have been built in Kolkata in the last decade.
A company called IVRCL was building the overpass for the Kolkata Metropolitan Development Authority, according to the company’s website.
A company official, K.P. Rao, told reporters the problem was not construction quality. It was an “act of God”, he said to CNN IBN.
The company website said the Vivekananda Overpass project was a composite steel structure, full of utilities and was being built in a congested area that hampered movement of heavy equipment.
It isn’t the first time there’s been a deadly road construction accident in India in recent years.
In March 2013, a fully constructed overpass collapsed in eastern Kolkata. A truck fell into a canal, but the people inside were rescued.
In Bhagalpur in 2006, an overbridge fell on an express train, killing 37 passengers.
In 2009, scaffolding on a bridge under construction collapsed in Kota, killing 30 workers.
In 2014, three laborers were killed when a portion of an overpass under construction collapsed in the Parle Point area of Surat, a Surat official told the PTI news agency.