In a shocking incident, a state-run bus and a car met with an accident after Chennai’s prominent Anna Salai caved in on Sunday.
Visuals from Anna Salai show a Honda City car and the MTC bus trapped in a huge crater that had suddenly formed on the road near the Church Park school.
Initial reports suggest that around 35 people were inside the bus, and sustained minor injuries. Some of them were taken to the Royapettah Government Hospital.
Since it was a Sunday, there was very less traffic on the road. A witness told the media that the bus was stationary when the road caved in. "The bus had stopped and some people were getting out. The road caved in slowly and that's perhaps why people could escape," the man said.
As is evident from the picture, the crater was so deep that the car can barely be seen from the distance.
The cave-in took place owing to tunneling work that is being carried out for the Chennai Metro Rail.
Speaking to The News Minute, Sruthi Ravindran, a PRO at Chennai Metro Rail said, "The cave-in must have taken place owing to the loose soil. Geographically, ours is loose soil. We have tried our level best to tunnel below 20 feet so it doesn't disturb the upper layer of soil. However, metro pipelines and other road construction work makes the soil loose."
On being asked why cave-ins were becoming a regular occurence, the Chennai Metro Rail official stated, "These incidents are unfortunate. We have done such tunneling work in Chintadripet and no cave-in has occured. We were tunneling very slowly there."
She also added that the tunneling work for the Thousand Lights and AG-DMS stretch has stopped following the incident. "An inspection is going on. They will survey the area and make a report and then precautionary measures will be taken," said Sruthi.
Chennai police officials have cordoned off Anna Salai – which is an arterial road in the city. A crane has since removed both the vehicles.
Speaking to reporters following an inspection at the site, state Finance Minister Jayakumar also said that the accident occured owing to the loose soil. He, however, added, "Soil tests have been carried out near the beach. As the soil is wet, these incidents sometimes take place. These cave-ins have occurred in other places where metro rail is being constructed. But the good thing is there have been no casualties."
The Finance Minister also promised that traffic will resume as normal on Anna Salai by Monday.
In a statement issued by CMRL, it said the sinkhole is 5 metres wide and 10 metres in length and at a depth of 2metres.
“The basic cause of today's incident is due to the existing loose soil pocket along the tunnelling alignment. Where the tunnel boring machine (tbm) is under operation. CMRL has a strict instrumentation and monitoring of settlement/deflection due to the ongoing tunnelling work,” a press release said.
“The monitoring point has been installed throughout the tunnel alignment at 10 metres interval. Continuous reading is taken at every 6 hours interval to cross check any development done to the ongoing tunnelling wok. The recent reading was taken around 2pm just before the incident and there was no settlement recorded while taking the reading,” it added.
Inspection and restoration work of the affected area is taken up in full swing and likely to open to traffic by Monday morning, officials said.
This is the second such incident on Anna Salai in ten days.
On March 30, the same stretch had caved in, with foam leaking onto the road. That incident threw traffic out of gear. The Chennai Traffic Police had then said that the road had caved in owing to the metro construction taking place on Anna Salai.
In December 2015, a giant crater was formed along the Anna Salai-Vijayaraghava Road in Teynampet. On that occasion to, the road cave-in was blamed on the metro construction.
A 10-foot stretch on Poonamallee High Road, another arterial road in Chennai caved in in June 2015 owing to tunnelling work for the Chennai Metro Rail. The cave-in even witnessed a car getting stuck in the crater. However, the occupants in the vehicle escaped unhurt.