Television footage from the scene showed residents using their bare hands to help the rescue effort as many people are feared trapped under the concrete and steel bridge, which fell on a busy road.
Speaking to CNN, Maj. Gen. Anurag Gupta, from India’s National Disaster Management Authority, on Thursday evening said that authorities didn’t then know how many people were driving across the bridge when it fell or how many more remained trapped.
“We cannot predict how many people are still under wreckage,” Gupta said. “We can’t tell, since it’s a bridge and not a building.”
A spokesperson for the left-wing party that governs the state of West Bengal of which Kolkata is the capital, said in a tweet: “Monumental tragedy. Rescue ops on. Many feared dead.”
Huge Chunk Fell Of Vivekananda Flyover, Many Killed: LIVE Updates – https://t.co/gJ5cGulBJUpic.twitter.com/u6QEQ6tyuO
— kolkata24x7 (@kolkata24x7) March 31, 2016
India’s army has deployed four columns of rescue personnel, according to a tweet from a representative of the Indian Ministry of Defense. Three medical teams with two ambulances, doctors and nursing assistants are also there.
More than 70 injured were admitted to two hospitals in Kolkata, the capital of West Bengal state, hospital officials said.
“The condition is pathetic. At this moment no one has any clue how many people are trapped,” said Raichand Mohta, a police officer at the scene.
The Indian home minister, Rajnath Singh, tweeted his concern and announced that rescue teams would be rushed to the scene.
Yet there was little sign of a coordinated rescue operation, with access for heavy lifting equipment restricted by the buildings on either side of the flyover and heavy traffic in the area.
Locals have been digging through the huge slabs of rubble with pick axes while police hold back relatives desperate for news of the missing.
As the operation continues, angry relatives arrive looking for their loved ones. At the same time, more bodies are being taken away.