Connectivity: His Majesty The King, accompanied by the Prime Minister, visited Kamji yesterday to inspect the ongoing construction of the 160-foot bailey bridge.
On Royal Command, at least 53 Royal Bhutan Army (RBA) personnel were deputed to assist DANTAK in completing the bridge.
With more than a 100-foot portion of the road at Kamji washed away, the Thimphu-Phuentsholing highway has been severed since July 24.
If everything goes well, DANTAK chief engineer, Brigadier PKG Mishra told Kuensel that the bailey bridge would be completed this evening. “Our fingers are crossed,” he said.
The chief engineer said that the visit of His Majesty The King had left the entire team motivated. He said the visit was made at a time when their spirits needed an uplift. “The visit motivated us right when we were tiring out,” he said. “His Majesty The King’s presence made all the difference in motivating us.”
The DANTAK chief engineer also expressed his gratitude to His Majesty The King for providing RBA personnel.
DANTAK officials and workers, RBA personnel, and Desuups, laboured under fog to assemble the bailey bridge yesterday.
A crane on the Phuentsholing side of the highway lifted metal panels weighing 256kgs each, which were then manually guided and bolted onto the bridge frame.
Then groups of men gathered at the end of the bridge. A whistle was blown and they together pushed the frame over the washed away portion, towards the Thimphu side of the highway.
This happened while a steady stream of hundreds of travellers, including students and regional tourists, were allowed to cross over the washed away portion on foot, on a remaining narrow ledge, either headed to Phuentsholing or Thimphu.
Hundreds of vehicles formed long queues and dropped and picked up travellers on both sides of the washed away portion.
Around 10 trucks carrying fuel that had been stranded in the queue for days were allowed to take the Pasakha-Manitar bypass to Thimphu. The bypass was used to move only critical goods but could be opened to regular traffic from 9am to 6pm daily from today, the Prime Minister said on social media.
Despite the traffic congestion, the Department of Roads continued to supply material and equipment from its Phuentsholing store to the site.
Besides the traffic, rain, and fog, the other challenges of constructing the bailey bridge were apparent.
With only a 100-metre cliff left where there was once a road, there is no possibility of working on the bridge from the side. On the other side are retention walls that support a highly prone landslide area thereby ruling out any further formation cutting. The only space left are at the ends of the bridge being built.
It was decided to initiate construction on the Phuentsholing side given the closer proximity of materials and equipment.
DANTAK chief engineer PKG Mishra said that as the closest launching material for the bridge was located in Wangdue, launching material had to be provided by the Indian Army from Binnaguri in India.
The 160-foot bailey bridge will be the first of its kind being constructed in the country. It is called a two-base-two-storey Double-Double bailey bridge of class 24 category, DANTAK officials said.
DANTAK officials also told Kuensel that if this bridge goes down, connectivity would be difficult to re-establish.
Meanwhile, flood mitigation works continued in Phuentsholing and the levels of the Amochhu and Omchhu subsided with no rain yesterday.
Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing