Almost 36 hours after a packed runaway barge slammed into the Demerara Harbour Bridge, breaking anchors and throwing the structure out-of-line, vehicles were allowed yesterday to start re-crossing.
The emergency repairs, which involved almost 60 persons working in shifts, would cause millions of dollars in damage with the final bill to be handed to the owners of barge and tug to pay, bridge officials said.
Up to yesterday morning, according to General Manager, Rawlston Adams, the timeline for opening to cars and minibuses (light vehicles) was set for 6pm.
However, critical repairs were completed before midday yesterday with the bridge reopening to light traffic at 2pm.
Heavier vehicles, including Canters, without loads, would be allowed after 6pm.
The news would bring a huge sigh of relief and underscore the critical importance of the bridge.
While Government is moving to build another bridge that would link the West Bank to East Bank at Houston, that project is a few years away.
At the moment, the bid documents that will be used to invite contractors are being prepared.
In the meantime, the Demerara Harbour Bridge remains the main link between the city, Timehri airport and West Demerara, which links up with Essequibo too.
In all, almost 100,000 persons would have been affected with Sunday night’s collision.
On Monday, the situation was compounded by the fact that the new school year had begun.
Parents, drivers and others who had not paid attention to the notices, were caught in the early morning traffic to Vreed-en-Hoop where a dilapidated stelling, which serviced the ferries faithfully its heydays, was tested to the limits under the watchful eyes of police who were called to maintain order.
Water taxis were allowed to work until 22.00 hrs on Monday, with emergency boats on the standby.
Yesterday, Adams was clear that the bridge will not be footing the costs for the repairs.
Marina Oceanic and the barge, manned by Cubans, and registered in Panama, will have to pick up the tab.
Under the laws, damage to the bridge has to be paid by offending parties, Kaieteur News was told.
The police reportedly released the crew after questioning them Monday.
While they are likely not to be charged, the owners will have to pay.
From sources, it was indicated that crewmen claimed that the barge and tug anchored south of the Demerara Harbour Bridge, in the Grove/Diamond area or the river, experienced technical problems and started drifting.
Minister of Public Infrastructure, David Patterson, had said Monday that from indications the ‘MayDay’ calls came too late- a disclosure which raised questions about why no calls before then.
The job of the repairs occurred under difficult circumstances with a diver used to connect anchors even during the night and amid strong current.
The vessels had hit the bridge so hard that it separated sections of the 40-year-old structure.
Bridge workers had to use wire ropes to secured sections.
A number of connecting posts were badly damaged and the bridge was shifted out-of-line.
Yesterday, both Patterson and Adams praised the workers, some who suspended their leave, to assist.
The situation in addition to the millions in economic loss had also threatened to disrupt the fuel supply of the Guyana Oil Company, Sol and Rubis.
Likely, the marine traffic will start as early as tomorrow, it was disclosed.
While the bridge is still out-of-line, with a number of anchors dislodged and buoys damaged, the repairs will continue in the next few hours.
For the bridge management, it would be a sigh of relief; for the thousands of commuters, despite the congestion every day at the bridge, the restart of operations would be more than welcome- far better than the situation at creaky Vreed-en-Hoop and Stabroek stellings.
It was clear that there was an impact on the city yesterday. The roads were largely clear with easy parking to be found.
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