One person dies as Delhi airport terminal roof collapses

Rescuers work at the collapsed terminal roof of New Delhi's international airport after heavy rains in New Delhi on June 28. Picture: Arun SANKAR / AFP

Rescuers work at the collapsed terminal roof of New Delhi's international airport after heavy rains in New Delhi on June 28. Picture: Arun SANKAR / AFP

Published Jun 28, 2024


The roof of a terminal building at New Delhi's international airport partially collapsed in heavy rains early Friday, killing one person, rescuers said, months after a refurbishment project inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Images posted online showed vehicles crushed under giant steel girders at the departure forecourt of the airport's Terminal 1, one of several projects Modi celebrated in March ahead of the country's recent general election.

"Due to heavy rain since early this morning, a portion of the canopy... collapsed around 5 am," airport authorities said in a statement.

The terminal is used for domestic flights only. Departures from it were cancelled until early afternoon, with later flights diverted to other terminals, which were operating as normal.

Infrastructure spending has been a priority under Modi, and the Delhi airport — named after assassinated former prime minister Indira Gandhi — is one of the country's flagship projects.

A member of National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) works at the site of collapsed terminal roof of New Delhi's Indira Gandhi International Airport after heavy rains in New Delhi on June 28. Picture: Arun SANKAR / AFP

The opposition Congress party slammed Modi, saying in a statement: "Because of the elections, this half-finished terminal was inaugurated in a hurry. Today this accident happened."

Congress defied expectations and exit polls to deprive Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of its overall parliamentary majority in elections earlier this month, forcing the BJP into a coalition with allies.

Delhi airport is run by a consortium led by Indian firm GMR, which describes itself as the world's second-largest private airport operator. It also has interests in energy and highways.

Reports say it has given millions of dollars to an electoral trust that has donated tens of millions to Modi's ruling BJP -- and has also funded Congress, albeit to a far lesser extent.

Senior Congress figure Priyanka Gandhi — sister of the opposition leader Rahul — posted on social media platform X: "Will the Chief Inauguration Minister take responsibility for this poor construction work and this corrupt model?"

At the airport, civil aviation minister Ram Mohan Naidu Kinjarapu told reporters that the building inaugurated by Modi was not the one where the roof collapsed, which was opened in 2009.

"Eight people have been injured, one person is dead. Rescue operations have been completed," Atul Garg, director of Delhi Fire Services told AFP.

Infrastructure worries

A section of roof at Jabalpur airport in Madhya Pradesh — another of the projects inaugurated by Modi — also collapsed Friday, reports said, with no one injured.

Safety and construction standards remain a concern in India, with accidents happening regularly.

At least 20 workers were crushed to death when a crane collapsed above an under-construction expressway outside the financial capital Mumbai earlier this month.

Last year, more than 40 workers were trapped for nearly two weeks before they were rescued after the road tunnel they were working on in Uttarakhand collapsed.

In October 2022, more than 130 people were killed when a bridge in Gujarat collapsed soon after it was repaired.

Delhi has been hit by heavy rains in recent days as the annual monsoon reached the Indian capital after a long stretch of heatwaves and punishingly high temperatures.

The downpours have brought the city to a standstill, with images shared by the city's police showing personnel clearing trees and helping residents stuck in waterlogged areas.