Bangladesh’s government said on Friday it had ordered a halt to construction of an elevated bus line until the Chinese contractor can provide security for the project plagued by recent deadly incidents including the collapse of a section that killed five people this month.
On August 15, a beam being installed for the rapid transit line project fell and flattened a car traveling under the elevated line along Jashim Uddin Avenue in Uttara, a suburb of Dhaka, killing five members of a family.
A newlywed couple were also seriously injured in the accident along the Dhaka-Mymensingh National Highway, one of the busiest roads in the country.
“The contractor had failures that caused the beam to collapse. This is unacceptable. Unless they ensure the complete safety and security of the people, construction will remain suspended,” Shafiqul Islam, managing director of Dhaka Bus Rapid Transit Co. Ltd, told BenarNews, an affiliate news service. FRG.
Islam and other officials traveled to the crash site on Friday to assess progress. The government formed a three-member team to investigate the collapse.
Neelima Akhter, an additional secretary at the Ministry of Road Transport and Bridges who leads the team, said she expected to complete the investigation by next week.
“The construction is currently stopped after the tragedy. Unless the contractor ensures the complete safety of the people, we will not allow them to proceed with the construction work,” she told BenarNews.
“If guilt is proven in our investigation, we will suggest actions against the contractor and others involved,” she said without giving further details.
China’s Gezhouba Group won the contract in 2016 to build the 20.2 km (12.5 mile) rapid transit line, which will connect Dhaka’s Gazipur region to Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport. The cost of the project is 42.6 billion taka (450 million US dollars).
A relative of the victims filed a complaint with the police against the Chinese company.
Authorities have arrested at least 10 people involved in the scheme, Md. Mohsin, the officer in charge of Uttara West Police Station, told BenarNews on Friday.
Mohammed Belayet Hossain, former secretary of the ministry’s road transport and highways division, blamed the collapse on the Chinese contractor.
“China Gezhouba Group Co. Limited is not a good company. They don’t invest enough money to implement such an important project as BRT,” said Belayet Hossain, using an acronym for the bus rapid transit system.
“As secretary, I personally visited sites and investigated the work of China Gezhouba. Their security measures were almost absent,” he told BenarNews. “The company does not want to spend [money] on ensuring public safety and security around project premises. »
He added that the construction site was also not properly blocked off.
“They worked keeping vehicle traffic as normal – this is unacceptable,” he said, adding, “They could have placed the beams at midnight when traffic slowed significantly.”
Belayet Hossain also alleged that the Chinese company won the contract because of its low bid, adding that it failed to provide proper safety equipment, including boots, helmets and vests, to its workers.
“According to Bangladesh’s procurement rules, the company offering the lowest price should be awarded the contract,” Belayet Hossain said. “But I think we need a change in the rules – we should assess a company’s capability before awarding a mega project.”
The Chinese Embassy in Dhaka did not immediately respond to an email request from BenarNews for comment on the arrest and the allegations against the Gezhouba Group.
The crane used did not have the capacity to support the weight of the beam and its operators, who were among those arrested, were not authorized to operate it, said Khandaker Al Moin, spokesman for the battalion. rapid action by the police, during a press conference. August 18.
Moin said a Gezhouba Group official ordered employees to work on a public holiday despite a shortage of manpower, including workers responsible for security and traffic management. Some of those working were new and inexperienced.
This month’s fatal incident was not the first at the project site.
In July, a crane collapsed on a Bangladeshi worker and killed him along a stretch of the public transport line at the Gazipur end. And in March 2021, six workers, including three Chinese citizens, were injured in an accident involving the laying of a broken beam on another stretch of the road.
BenarNews is an information service affiliated with RFA.