Narrow escape for many as 120-tonne ‘machine’ collapses at Nashik Phata chowk Metro site

Senior officials of police and MahaMetro rushed to the spot after the incident. (Express photo by Rajesh Stephan)

A 'machine' weighing 120 tonnes crashed at an under-construction Metro site at Nashik Phata chowk, a spot where multiple flyovers are located and traffic is often haphazard, on Saturday afternoon. There were no casualties and a major tragedy was averted as the driver of the machine managed to alert Metro staff, the moment he realised something was wrong.

The staff stopped the traffic, heading from the direction of Pune city towards Mumbai, at the busy intersection, where the presence of barricades in the middle of the road and criss-crossing vehicles often causes confusion.

The incident led to a major traffic jam at Kasarwadi, Nashik Phata, Shankarwadi and Phugewadi, on the Pune-Mumbai Highway. A team of officials, including top engineers from MahaMetro and police personnel, led by Assistant Commissioner of Police Satish Patil, rushed to the spot.

MahaMetro spokesperson Hemant Sonawane said the machine that collapsed was a pilling rig 'vehicle'. "It is used to lay the foundation for the pillars. It is a vehicle but is better known as a machine," he said. The 'machine' weighs 120 tonnes.

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Incident puts question marks on safety steps

Though MahaMetro has insisted that it has put in place all possible safety mechanism, eyebrows are being raised about this incident, which took place at a critical spot. MahaMetro has decided to probe the incident and punish the contractor, if found guilty. Local residents and activists, however, have expressed doubts about whether a fool-proof safety system is in place.

Sonawane said the driver didn't realise that the soil at the spot had become soft. "After the completion of the work, the moment he tried to move the machine, it started to tilt. Even as the machine was collapsing, he showed presence of mind and shouted for help. He alerted the staff at the site, who halted the traffic," he said.

Sonawane said the driver's alertness helped avert a major tragedy. The machine was restored to its original position with the help of a crane.

"We are rattled by the incident…it should not have happened as we take all possible safety precautions," said MahaMetro Managing Director Brijesh Dixit. He said the agency will conduct a probe in the incident and appropriate action will be taken against the contractor concerned, if found guilty.

"There is nothing to worry about. The driver did not realise how slippery the soil was, which led to the pilling rig machine collapsing on its side," he said. Dixit said MahaMetro had rushed its entire team of senior officers and engineers to take stock of the situation and clear the chaos.

He said MahaMetro was aware of the "sensitive" spot of Nashik Phata and work at the site was being carried out "sensitively". "We will probe the incident and take all necessary steps to ensure that no accident occurs at Metro work sites," he said.

Local residents, who rushed to the spot after hearing the loud crash sound, initially thought it was a "flyover accident".

"We thought something had gone wrong with the flyover as the noise was so loud," said Balasaheb Nanaware, a local resident.

Nanaware said a tempo driver suffered bruises on his head due to the incident. "After the machine fell, some stones were flung in the air due to the impact, and one of them damaged the glass pane of a tempo heading towards Pune city. The glass shards hit the driver on the head, who was rushed to the hospital. I think he sustained bruises," he said.

But, till late on Saturday, there were no complaints about any injuries or vehicles being damaged, said ACP Satish Patil. "I personally went to the spot and received no complaint. Even till late evening, there were no complaints," he said.

Last year, MahaMetro had found that a pillar at one of its sites was constructed in a wrong manner, and had fined the contractor. It had also promised to prevent any mishaps in the future.