Support for inquiry on collapse of Harbour Bridge
I endorse the view expressed by Peeping Tom (Jul 24) that an inquiry is needed into the collapse of the Demerara Harbour Bridge. The partially sunken bridge has been the subject of discussion everywhere I travelled since early Monday morning when the bridge went out of operation. People were and still are extremely angry that they lost work and income (businesses suffered losses, farmers lost their produce, government lost revenues, taxis and buses lost money, people were fighting each other at the stelling, etc.) and they blame the government for the bridge being out of commission. In short, there were serious economic losses, psychological trauma, and inconvenience. Thus, the nation needs to know the facts of why the bridge collapsed so that corrective actions can be taken to prevent its recurrence.
The inquiry should focus on the overall operation of the bridge and it should be done urgently and it should include all the facts surrounding maintenance work carried out on the bridge, the type of vehicles that were allowed to cross the bridge, a detailed report on the amount of funds expended annually on maintenance work over the last several years.
People must be brought to account over their responsibilities. If people are found to be negligent (in the bridge’s operation or its maintenance) or can’t account for expenditures in the upkeep of the bridge, they should face the full brunt of the law – prosecuted if need be and or terminated.
The General Manager, Mr. Rawlston Adams, and the line Minister, Mr. Robeson Benn, are responsible for the operation and upkeep of the bridge. The management of the bridge leaves much to be desired and the Ministry’s supervision is not up to standard. The General Manager of the Demerara Harbour Bridge Corporation and the Ministry need to provide answers to several questions commuters posed, comments made and unverifiable claims about the bridge’s operation and maintenance work as well as exactly what led to the collapse of the bridge.
A few individuals told me that they saw an excavator crossing the bridge in the wee hours of Monday and it could have damaged the pontoon or aspects of the bridge especially if it was under stress for shoddy maintenance work or weak “rotten” pontoons.
Minibus operators told me that “certain bumps on the bridge did not feel right” suggesting the bridge was under stress for “weight”. Others said a few pontoons were in decaying condition and could not withstand normal weight (like that of an excavator). People complain that virtually no maintenance is done on the bridge and when work is actually done it is shoddy and poor.”Dem a do lie lie wuk”, is how some described maintenance of the bridge.
But I crossed the bridge on Sunday and saw some kind of maintenance work being done – what exactly the nature of the maintenance was, why couldn’t the workers detect something was amiss about the bumps or the pontoons?
In the U.S, those workers would be roasted – they would be grilled on the type of work carried out and their inability to recognize that something was amiss. Sources tell me that tens of millions of dollars are spent annually on maintenance work – on what?
One bus operator told me he read in the media sometime in May that a pontoon was stolen or moved from the bridge and found in the Mahaica area. If that is indeed the case, then security on the bridge is poor. We are told two pontoons were taking on water — clearly inspection lapsed or is not a priority for management. The pontoon could not have leaked suddenly. Are or were the pontoons seaworthy? When was the last inspection of the pontoons and why weren’t the leaking pontoons discovered?
There were some individuals who invoked a conspiracy theory to explain the collapse of the bridge, with some saying there was sabotage related to other events that preoccupy the nation and grabbing news headlines. Also, a few persons swore that pins from pontoons were removed to affect the alignment of the bridge. Was there a conspiracy to undermine the bridge?
We need to know the facts of what really happened to the bridge. The life of the nation was disrupted and it suffered tremendously over the three days that the bridge was out of operation and even now it is not fully operational as there is weight restriction preventing certain equipment and vehicles from crossing.
Let there be a thorough inquiry on every aspect of the bridge’s operation and let the facts come out. It can’t be business as usual or else we will have the same disastrous outcome.