A flyover under construction in Kolkata collapsed on Thursday, crushing 22 people and injuring 78. Several people continue to be trapped under debris.

The bridge collapsed at around 12.45 pm, on the congested road intersection in Burrabazar, in the city’s northern section.

Hyderabad based company IVRCL was tasked with constructing the 2-kmVivekananda Road flyover, a project that has been marred by delays. A representative of the construction firm, Panduranga Rao, described the accident as an ‘Act of God’. IVRCL was appointed by Kolkata Metropolitan Development Authority (KMDA) to build the flyover. The firm was unable to ascertain the immediate cause of the collapse, but it said this bridge was the “toughest project of the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewable Mission (JNNURM) project under the KMDA”.

The company had made it clear on various occasions that the project was a very difficult undertaking due to the congested area of the intersection, which hampered the movement of the heavy equipment used for construction, according to its website.

 The Telegraph reported that IVRCL was awarded the contract on 24 February 2009 with a budget of Rs 164 crore and a deadline of 18-months. After seven years of work, the construction was reported to be in its final phases. The company had revised its deadline several times. The flyover proved to be a hindrance for traffic on the intersection. Many residents in the area complained about the delay in the project.

When reporters asked company officials about the delay in the project and the cause for collapse, Rao said, “The bridge collapse was an act of God. Out of the 70 spans, 69 spans were completed without a problem. There was a strict process of checking from consultants and clients. We are shocked to know how the instance occurred.”

West Bengal Cheif Minister Mamata Banerjee chose to blame the previous government for the collapse. “The construction of the bridge started in the year 2008, during the time of CPM,” she said. “But now the crisis has happened, so we will face the problem.”

A file photo of the Vivekanand bridge collapse. PTIA file photo of the Vivekanand bridge collapse. PTI

A file photo of the Vivekanand bridge collapse. PTI

Dip in stock prices

According to an article by Business Standard, in the past few years, IVRCL has faced a liquidity problem due to increasing debt and depleting profits. It had accumulated a debt of Rs 10,000 crore on top of net loss of close to Rs 2,000 crore by the end of second quarter of 2016. The article quoted senior management officials saying they require revenue inflows between Rs 5,000 and Rs 6,000 crore to cast off their immediate troubles.

In March 2016, the company underwent a debt restructuring process. Banks who were part of this process were allotted 18,19,60,413 equity shares of Rs 2 each, at a price of Rs 8.76 per share. The allocation was made under the guidelines of the RBI Circular on Strategic Debt Restructure, according to a report by The Hindu Business Line.

According to a report by Moneycontrol, the company saw a dip in its shares by 11 per cent on Thursday. Its stock has fallen steadily over the past year.

Other Bridge constructions

Founded over 25 years ago, the company has been involved in various projects related to water and environment, transportation, buildings and industrial structures, power transmission projects and mining. It is listed on the BSE and NSE and employs more than 3,000 engineers, managers and professional technocrats.

The company is known, among other things, for construction of the first desalination plant at Minjur (near Chennai) with a capacity of 100 million litres per day (MLD).

IVRCL has undertaken construction of several flyovers and bridges in cities like Chennai, Kondalampatti, Amritsar, Chengapalli, Bagalkote and Palasa.

Some of these include:

  • Rail over bridge at Perambur in Chennai. Their client for this project is the Corporation of Chennai, Bridges department.
  • Design, construction, development, finance, operation and maintenance of major interchange at Kondalampatti on NH-47 as part of four-laning of Salem to Kumarapalayam Section in Tamil Nadu. Their client for this project is National Highways Authority of India.
  • The construction of a major bridge across the river Baes on NH-1 as part of the laning of the Jalandhar-Amritsar section. The client for the project is the National Highways Authority of India.
  • Major bridge across the river Cauvery on NH-47 as part of laning of Kumarapalayam to Chengapalli section in Tamil Nadu, for which the client is National Highways Authority of India.
  • Construction of a road over bridge at Palasa in lieu of existing Visakhapatnam-Bhuveaneshwar road in Srikulam District, the client for which is the Superintending Engineer (R&B) Circle, Srikakulam.-
  • Construction of a bridge across the river Krishna of Jamkhandi Savalgi road near Jambagi village in Jamkhandi Taluk, Bagalkote District, client for which is the Karnataka Road Development Corporation Limited.

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Delayed for 7 years, the Vivekanand flyover project was the toughest bridge project IVRCL ever took on