NEW DELHI – A colonial-era footbridge collapsed onto railroad tracks in eastern India on Saturday, burying a train beneath tons of red rock and killing at least 33 passengers.
Rescuers struggled for hours to remove the pile of concrete, slabs of red stone and debris from the mangled sleeper car. By nightfall, they reached the crushed section and discovered that the car — believed to have been largely empty — was full of bodies.
Thirty-three bodies had been recovered by Saturday night, including those of five children, said Ajay Verma, deputy inspector general of police for railways. Fourteen people were pulled out alive and four of the wounded were in a serious condition.
The 150-year-old arched footbridge at the Bhagalpur station, in the eastern state of Bihar, had been in the process of being dismantled, said Viplav Kumar, a local government administrator at the scene.
Bhagalpur is about 93 miles east of Patna, the capital of Bihar.
Two of the three arched spans had already been removed, but the third came crashing down in a cloud of dust.
"A loud roar and the heavens seemed to have crumbled over us," passenger Anil Yadav, told the Press Trust of India news agency. "Thick clouds of dust streamed into the compartment, leaving me gasping for breath."
Television footage showed a man pleading for help through a shattered window.
Hundreds of people crowded around as rescue workers used cranes, bulldozers and even their hands to remove the rubble.
Railway Minister Lalu Prasad ordered an inquiry into the incident and suspended two railway engineers responsible for dismantling the bridge.
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar said safety norms had not been followed.
"This is definitely the fault of the railways," he said.