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Delhi airport roof collapse from monsoon crushes cars

NEW DELHI — Heavy monsoon rains in the Indian capital of New Delhi brought part of the airport terminal roof crashing down on parked cars, killing at least one person and injuring eight others, according to officials.

Operations at the terminal were suspended, Civil Aviation Minister Ram Mohan Naidu Kinjarapu told reporters at the site, while attributing the damage to the rain. Government critics, however, have alleged negligence and poor maintenance amid the nation’s infrastructure construction boom to be behind the accident.

A roof at Delhi airport collapsed after heavy rain on June 28, killing one person and injuring several others. (Video: AP)

“The rest of the terminal building has been closed off and everything is being thoroughly inspected so that any other untoward incident does not happen here,” he added. “Passengers are the first priority for us.”

Stranded passengers complained about the lack of clear communication from authorities. “There are about 800 of us stuck here but there is no responsible person who can talk to us,” one passenger told a local television network. “We are just cluelessly standing here.”

After the initial suspension, officials diverted all operations to the airport’s other two terminals that also manage international flights. IndiGo Airlines, a company that controls 60 percent of India’s domestic aviation market, according to trade analysts, initially canceled flights scheduled to depart from the terminal.

The rescue operation was conducted by fire safety officials over three hours, according to Atul Garg, director of the Delhi Fire Service. The accident came as parts of New Delhi were submerged in knee-deep water from the monsoons, halting traffic and bringing down power lines.

There has long been criticism over poor maintenance in the country and a lack of oversight over contractors in major building projects. India has seen a massive infrastructure boom in past years to meet rising demands for transportation.


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“The rapid infrastructure development in the recent years has been of poor quality, without monitoring and maintenance, and has involved corruption,” said Anup Kumar Srivastava, a former consultant with the National Disaster Management Authority who now consults independently. “The common man’s life is now in danger when traveling on a bridge, in a tunnel, or on a dam.”

India’s aviation industry, with the world’s third-largest market, has built 75 new airports and seen a doubling of domestic passenger traffic in the last decade.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has heavily marketed the country’s ambitious infrastructure push with frequent travels to inaugurate highways, railway stations and airports. His party’s recent election campaigning made infrastructure development a central focus.

Three months ago, Modi inaugurated a revamped terminal at the same airport, but officials rushed to clarify that it was not for the part of the airport that just collapsed. Members of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party have blamed the airport wreckage on the Congress Party, which was in power when that particular roof was constructed.

A chorus of critics on social media, however, called the Delhi incident the latest in a long line of infrastructure woes afflicting the country despite fees paid specifically for maintenance. On Thursday, rains collapsed part of the canopy at an airport in Madhya Pradesh state that was unveiled just weeks earlier.

“Corruption and criminal negligence is responsible for the collapse of shoddy infrastructure falling like a deck of cards,” the opposition Congress Party’s president, Mallikarjun Kharge, wrote in the post.

Recently, a rail accident killed nine people in Bengal, evoking images from an even worse incident a year ago, when a three-train pileup killed 275 people and injured about 1,000. Late last year, a collapsed tunnel left 41 construction workers stranded nearly 300 feet underground for almost three weeks.

Delhi International Airport Limited, the company that operates the facility, which was built in 2009, announced compensation of $24,000 for the family of the deceased and about $3,500 each for those injured in the collapse.

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