Harbour Bridge collapse…
By Leonard Gildarie
As workers of the Demerara Harbour Bridge battle to repair a sunken section, its management yesterday said that normalcy cannot be expected before tomorrow. Pedestrians and bikers were late yesterday allowed to start crossing.
Today, light vehicles will be facilitated once works to stabilize the most western section are completed, says General Manager, Rawlston Adams.
A pontoon loaned by businessman, Eddie Vieira, to help float the sunken section so that the original one could be installed, did not work, but Adams remains confident that they can still meet the intended deadlines.
Like Monday night, staffers were prepared to work through last night. Several huge floodlights were on the scene.
At the Vreed-en-Hoop and Stabroek Stellings, there were orderly crowds under the watchful eyes of the police. Monday’s confusion was absent and passengers were compelled to join a swiftly moving line.
The delays overall were minimal.
Earlier yesterday, employees working round the clock, managed to raise the sunken section, but a low tide delayed critical activities in the morning period. It was a waiting game for workers.
Emergency measures were in place for minibuses to take passengers to the high span of the structure, from where they would walk to the western side.
On Monday, the first and second spans (numbers 60 and 61) on the western end of the structure collapsed around 06:45hrs, after the connections to a temporary pontoon broke.
Bridge management says that it has been on a scheduled maintenance to replace the corroded connections and works had been done over the weekend. Preparatory works for the replacement, including dredging, have been underway for some six months now.
The collapse had immediately resulted in severe fallout as thousands of vehicles and commuters were left stranded on both sides of the river.
It is a critical link between the city and West Demerara as well as Essequibo.
According to Adams, during an early morning inspection with reporters yesterday, works are almost 80% complete with the critical, submerged section of the bridge totally out of water.
The “work is tide sensitive”, the official stressed.
He made it clear it is not a case of the emergency crew not working but that the water has to be of a certain level.
While Adams was unable to estimate a cost of the emergency, he noted that it would be a significant amount, involving resources of the Demerara Harbour Bridge. These include pontoons, pumps, fuel, overtime and gas. There was no work contracted out.
According to Adams, the bridge is in good working order, and there is no “imminent danger”.
The bridge’s 20-year lifespan expired in 1998 and a heavy maintenance programme and hundreds of millions of dollars in government subsidies have added yet another 10 years of life, the General Manager said in response to questions.
However, it was pointed out that the large number of vehicles hitting the country’s roads may see the bridge being severely challenged in the coming four to five years, essentially making it “inefficient”.
Adams insisted that the bridge has enough experienced staffers to handle the salvaging of the sunken pontoon, with some staffers working with the structure, commissioned in July 1978, in excess of 30 years.
The closure of the bridge was described as a nightmare by those who essentially depend on it in various ways for their livelihood.
There were trucks parked with broken rice destined for Bounty Farms and one with sawn lumber.
Some vehicles had come from as far as Essequibo Coast.
One enterprising teen was seen sleeping in a hammock at the side of one of the trucks.
At the Vreed-en-Hoop area, the traffic continued to be heavy yesterday with everyone heading to the speedboat facilities where emergency measures have been put in place to allow vessels to ferry passengers until midnight. Police continued to man the roadblock at the junction there to prevent congestion.
Vehicles belonging to city workers and others lined several roads leading to the area.
It was another lucrative day for the speedboat operators.
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