Porayar (TN), Oct 20 (PTI) It turned out to be a double whammy for the family of a retired bus driver as his two sons were among the eight killed when a portion of an old building of the Tamil Nadu State Transport Corporation (TNSTC) collapsed here today.

A pall of gloom descended on this town and surrounding villages, from where the deceased hailed, even as the trade unions blamed the state government for the tragedy, alleging that it had ignored their concerns about the safety of the over-65-year-old structure.

The two brothers — Prabhakaran and Balu — had literally followed the footsteps of their father Jambukesan, who had retired about 15 years ago, in their professional life to become TNSTC drivers.

Their village Kalahasthinapuram, about 25 kms from here, was shocked by the news of their demise.

The two brothers had finished their duty last night and were sleeping in the retiring room as they had to report to work early in the morning.

In all, fifteen crew members were sleeping in a room on the first floor which collapsed at 3.15 AM, killing eight of them. While four persons managed to escape unhurt, the remaining three received injuries, officials said.

Meanwhile, state Handlooms Minister O S Manian and Transport Minister M R Vijayabhaskar visited the villages of the eight deceased.

Accompanied by Nagapattinam District Collector C Sureshkumar, they handed over cheques of Rs 7.5 lakh each to the kin of the deceased as announced by the chief minister.

Meanwhile, along with various opposition parties, the trade unions too blamed the TNSTC and the government for the tragedy.

The TNSTC authorities had ignored the complaints about the “precarious” condition of the building housing the bus depot, trade union leaders here alleged.

The main building was built in 1943 by the then leading private bus operator, Sathi Vilas Bus Service. The portion which collapsed was constructed in 1952.

The state government took over the bus service in 1972 as part of its nationalisation drive and the buildings constructed by the private operator were used for the administrative wing since then.

The officebearers of many TNSTC unions, including the CITU, said the ill-fated building was in a “precarious” condition and that they had submitted representations to the authorities, urging them to refurbish it or construct a new structure.

DMK district secretary Nivetha Murugan said the workers had long been complaining that the building was leaking during the rainy season.

Echoing similar views, CPI(M) state executive member Shanmugam demanded action against the TNSTC officials.

TNSTC workers staged demonstrations at Porayar, Sirkazhi and Mayiladuthurai, demanding justice for the families of the deceased.

They also sought demolition of the existing building and construction of a new structure on a war footing to ensure the safety of the employees.

Condoling the death of the eight persons in the tragedy, VCK leader Thol Thirumavalavan, in Coimbatore, pressed for the formation of a committee to identify the weak buildings housing various government offices across the state and their renovation.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.