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At least 23 feared dead as under construction railway bridge collapses near Aizawl

Bridge between the two pillars collapsed

Aizawl: An under-construction railway bridge, identified as railway bridge no. 196, collapsed near Sairang, just 18 kilometers west of Aizawl Wednesday, leaving at least 23 workers feared dead, with three others sustained injuries. The mishap occurred over a small stream named river Kurung, between two pillars of the bridge.

Lalchamliana, the Minister of Disaster Management and Rehabilitation, said that the bodies of 18 construction workers have been recovered so far as of 6:00pm, with five still missing.

All the victims hailed from West Bengal’s Malda district.

The disaster struck at 9:58 AM when the under-construction bridge collapsed, sending shockwaves through the local community. A prompt response was initiated, with Aizawl district deputy commissioner Nazuk Kumar, district SP Rex Vanchhawng, a contingent of police personnel, and the state Health Department’s medical team rushing to the accident site.

Multiple agencies, including local authorities, area NGOs, 1st Battalion of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), Aizawl District Disaster Management Authority (DDMA), Quick Response Team (QRT), and State Disaster Response Teams (SDRF) from 1st Battalion Mizoram Armed Police (MAP), 3rd Battalion MAP, and 5th India Reserve Battalion, were swiftly mobilized to provide rescue operations.

Amid the grim situation, an injured engineer found himself stranded atop a 100-meter-high pillar. However, the State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) exhibited remarkable bravery by lowering him down using a stretcher, eventually rescuing him. The engineer was subsequently admitted to Aizawl’s Civil Hospital, where his condition was reported as stable but considerably exhausted.

Transport Minister T.J. Lalnuntluanga disclosed that the construction of the ill-fated railway bridge was entrusted to ABCI Infrastructures Pvt. Ltd., a company headquartered in Kolkata. The project had commenced in 2018 and was originally scheduled for completion by December of this year. The railway stretch, spanning 51.38 kilometers from Assam border’s Bairabi railway station to Sairang near Aizawl, falls under the purview of supervision by the Northeast Frontier Railway.

As the state comes to terms with the tragedy, the central committee of the Young Mizo Association (YMA) has strongly demanded a thorough investigation to identify and punish those responsible for the disaster. The YMA, a prominent civil society organisation in Mizoram, has also called upon both the state government and the Railway authorities to conduct an extensive safety audit of the ongoing railroad project between Bairabi and Sairang. Furthermore, they insist that ABCI Infrastructures extend adequate ex-gratia payments and compensation to the victims.

The recovered dead bodies have been taken to the State Referral Hospital at Falkawn near Aizawl and the Civil Hospital, Aizawl for post-mortem examination where the bodies will be embalmed.

Railways authorities will make arrangements to transport the bodies to their respective villages.

Different Young Mizo Association (YMA) units in Aizawl city donated coffins for the deceased people. 

Transport Minister T.J. Lalnuntluanga, lone Lok Sabha member C. Lalrosanga, state chief secretary Renu Sharma, DGP, Home Secretary and other top officials visited the site of the mishap on Wednesday. 

State Governor Hari Babu Kambhampati, Chief Minister Zoramthanga and Disaster Management and Rehabilitation Minister Lalchamliana condoled the deaths of 23 workers in the collapse of under construction railway bridge at Sairang. 

“Our hearts are heavy with grief over the tragic accident at the railway bridge construction site over the Kurung River about 20 km from Aizawl. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of workers who lost their lives in the tragedy,” said Kambhampati through his twitter handle. 

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has conveyed his profound sorrow regarding the loss of lives resulting from the bridge accident.

The Prime Minister has also declared an ex-gratia amount of Rs. 2 lakh to be provided from PMNRF to the next of kin of each deceased individual, along with Rs. 50,000 for the injured.

The official communication from the Prime Minister’s Office on platform X states:

“Deeply saddened by the bridge mishap in Mizoram. My heartfelt condolences to those who have lost their dear ones. I pray for the swift recovery of the injured. Rescue operations are in progress, and every feasible support is being extended to those affected.

An ex-gratia sum of Rs. 2 lakh from PMNRF will be granted to the families of each deceased person. Additionally, Rs. 50,000 will be provided to the injured individuals.” 

Interestingly, it is worth noting that the same company, ABCI Infrastructures, was involved in the operation of a stone mine in Maudarh village of south Mizoram’s Hnahthial district. Tragically, the stone mine collapsed on November 14 last year, claiming the lives of 12 workers. Investigations into the incident exposed a lack of adherence to safety protocols during quarry operations.

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