Accidents and deaths in Moghbazar-Malibagh Flyover construction continue as safety measures are not being maintained even though a High Court verdict last year ordered ensuring public safety there.
Early yesterday, a 36-metre-long girder weighing about 70 tonnes fell from the flyover and killed 42-year-old temporary hourly worker Md Swapan near Malibagh Level Crossing in the capital.
It also left two others -- Palash Baran Dhar, an LGED assistant engineer, and Noor Nabi, a concrete mixer truck driver -- seriously injured. Both of them have lost a leg each.
Another girder fell during installation at the same spot last month, but nobody was hurt, said sources.
Almost a year ago, 25-year-old construction worker Rabbi Ahmed Emon died when iron rods from the flyover fell on him in Eskaton.
The project authorities, however, seem indifferent to the causalities. Within a half kilometre from yesterday's accident spot, workers were seen without any safety gear and people were walking beneath the under-construction flyover as the pavement and street was almost unusable there.
Sushanto Kumar Biswas, project director of Moghbazar-Malibagh Flyover, said, “An accident is an accident … what else can I say?”
“I don't claim that we were able to take the required public safety precautions,” he said, adding, “You understand … how much safety precautions can we take on an awfully busy public road?”
He pointed out that all three victims were involved in the construction work and that they failed to ensure their own safety.
However, Abdul Kuddus Babu, a friend of deceased Swapan, said Swapan was hired for just four hours yesterday to control traffic during a girder installation. He said Swapan was actually a carpenter.
The accident happened apparently while stressing the girder on the piers, a way of strengthening and enhancing the stability of the girder, said Prof Shamsul Hoque of Buet, who drew the layout of the Kuril flyover and Banani-Zia Colony flyover.
“Extra precautions for public safety are mandatory in cases of stressing girders along a densely populated active road,” he said.
Prof Moazzem Hossain, director of Accident Research Institute at Buet, said, “Repeated accidents and loss of lives only manifest that the authorities are not serious about public safety at the project site.”
Fencing off the construction site, public movement control, maintenance of equipment, keeping the road free and functional, safe traffic management and keeping drainage clear are some fundamental safety precautions written in any civil construction manual.
“But unfortunately in case of Moghbazar-Malibagh Flyover construction work, such fundamental safety precautions are all ignored despite a court order … ,” he said.
“And it is not understandable why people would be underneath while a gigantic concrete girder was being lifted for stressing and placement overhead,” he said.
“That the victims include an engineer, a worker and a vehicle driver of the project simply underlines the fact that the project authorities did not take safety precautions for themselves, let alone for the people,” he said.
During a spot visit, The Daily Star correspondent found there was no fence to prevent people from walking underneath while workers were working on the top of the flyover at Shantinagar.
They were working in a precarious way and it seemed that a moment of distraction could cause a fatal accident.
Amena Khatun, who was walking under the flyover, said since many parts of the pavement were damaged and there was murky water on the road, she chose to walk under the construction area.
“Yes, it is dangerous,” she said, adding that she was left with no better options.
Rouf Mia, a worker of the flyover, was binding iron rings to a rope, which was being pulled up by other workers. He had no helmet on, let alone other safety gear.
“I don't know who died and how,” he said. “Yes, accident may happen if the rings slip,” said Rouf and got busy with his work.
While a girder was being lifted on a crane around 12:50am yesterday at the Malibagh Level Crossing, workers were loosening the clamps of another girder, which had already been set up, to make room for the new one, said Swapan's friend Kuddus.
All of a sudden, the preset girder slipped and came crashing down on the road, he said.
“There was a huge bang. Dust covered the adjacent area,” said Kuddus, adding that it took a few moments to figure out what had happened.
Monir Hossain, who was the on-duty gatekeeper of the Malibagh Level Crossing, said he saw the victims lying on the ground.
All the injured were admitted to the Dhaka Medical College Hospital where Swapan died.
“The girder fell on the rail lines from 22 feet above. Firemen dismantled and removed it,” he said.
LGED Chief Engineer Shyama Prosad Adhikari did not respond despite repeated calls and texts from this paper.
The government has formed a three-member probe committee, led by LGED Additional Chief Engineer Md Abul Kalam Azad, to find out the reasons for the girder collapse.
A High Court bench of Justice Obaidul Hasan and Justice Krishna Debnath in late March last year ordered the authorities concerned to take public safety measures in Moghbazar-Mouchak flyover construction.
Local Government Engineering Department (LGED), without mandatory approval of Dhaka transport coordination authority and without any public consultation, embarked on implementing the 8.7km flyover scheme with some gross anomalies at a revised cost of Tk 1,219 crore in late 2012.
Local Toma Constructions Ltd, Chinese firm Metallurgical Construction Overseas Company, and joint venture of Indian Simplex Infrastructure Ltd, and local Navana Construction are building the flyover.
During yesterday's spot visit, officials of the construction companies were not found.