At least 18 people were killed and more than two dozens injured in a major tragedy which rocked this city on Tuesday evening when a huge pillar span of under-construction Chowkaghat-Laharatara flyover fell on several vehicles including a roadways bus, four cars, five auto-rickshaws and a number of two-wheelers when it was being put on the two constructed pillars.
The incident took place opposite to gate no-3 Railway Vasundhara Colony, just about 100 yards away from the railway station towards Allahabad road.
The number of the deceased may go up further as the rescue work at the site was going on till night hours.
Principal Secretary(Information) Awnish Awasthi confirmed in Lucknow that 18 bodies have been recovered so far.
He said three people were rescued alive while the condition of two injured was stated to be critical.
Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath is reaching Varanasi late tonight from Lucknow. He will meet the injured at the hospital and will visit the spot.
However, unconfirmed sources said the number of the deceased could be around 30.
According to ADG (Zone) PV Ramasastry, the tragedy was big but the first priority of the police was to save the injured by rushing them to hospitals.
Even after several hours of the incident, hectic work was going on to cut the fallen heavy part of flyover with the help of cutters to bring out trapped persons.
Mr Adityanath has constituted a three-member inquiry committee led by Agriculture Production Commissioner Raj Pratap Singh while the other members of the team are Bhupendra Sharma, principal engineer and head, Irrigation department and Rajesh Mittal, managing director, UP Jal Nigam. The Chief Minister asked the team to submit their report to him within 48 hours to look into the causes behind the incident.
Besides, on the instructions of Mr Adityanath, Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya and local minister Dr Neelkanth Tiwari reached here around 2100 hrs and visited the injured at different hospitals apart from seeing the tragedy site.
The UP government announced a compensation of Rs 5 lakh to the families of the deceased and Rs 2 lakh for the critical injured.
Prime Minister and Varanasi MP Narendra Modi too expressed grief over the death of people in the incident and has instructed the Chief Minister to provide all necessary assistance.
Meanwhile, utter chaos prevailed in the areas and heavy police force including the personnel of PAC, NDRF and CRPF was deployed there to carry on rescue work. Senior district and police officers including divisional commissioner Deepak Agrawal, ADG (Zone) PV Ramasastry, IG(Range) Dipak Ratan, SSP RK Bhardwaj and others were on the site.
An injured Mohammed Shakil Ahmed aged around 35 and a resident of Shakar Talab (Jaitpura) area said when he was passing through the area along with his cousin Nasruddin, 20, the parts of flyover fell down with deafening sound. Though they were on left corner of the roads, and luckily escaped from being trapped. Another injured Mohammed Ismail, a chicken seller, said he was in the city bus when it was trapped from its rear side. He was sitting on front seat so escaped but injured.
Rinku who was carrying his father-in-law in his new car when the incident took place. His both legs were badly injured as he was driving the car whereas the driver who was sitting in back seat safely escaped.
The incident in the parliamentary constituency of the Prime Minister has sent shocked waves across the entire city though the opposition parties are trying to politicalise the same.
Several students of Banaras Hindu University (BHU) rushed to the Trauma Centre to donate blood for the injured.
On the other hand, a Congress team led by former MLAs Ajay Rai and Laliteshpati Tripathi along with district chief Praja Nath Sharma also rushed to Shree Shiv Prasad Gupta (SSPG) Hospital to see the condition of the injured.They raised their voices against the uses of sub-standard quality of materials in the construction. Mayor Mridula Jaiswal, some local BJP MLAs and others also reached hospitals to help the injured get quick treatment.