By Neten Dorji

TRASHIGANG — The Gyalpoizhing-Nganglam Highway has been closed to traffic since yesterday morning after the 190ft reconstructed bailey bridge over Drangmechu collapsed again, killing a young couple in a tragic incident.

The bridge that connects Gyalpoizhing in Mongar and Nganglam in Pemagatshel collapsed from the centre at around 7:40 am, under the weight of a ten-wheeler truck ferrying bricks for the Gyalsung Project at Bondeyma in Lingmethang.

The driver and his wife from Tsirang were killed in the incident. As of yesterday evening, the rescue team couldn’t retrieve the bodies.

Another driver who was following the couple on the fateful morning waited for the ten-wheeler truck as the tragic accident unfolded right in front of him.

Videos of the latest collapse have gone viral and sparked fury among the public over poor constructions and safety standards.

According to the experts, the bridge could have collapsed due to a number of reasons.

Although overloading was suspected to be the main cause of the collapse, it couldn’t be ascertained yet.

An expert said that it could be due to the use of composite bridge parts from bridges that are not compatible. “These days, most bridges are built from old parts of bailey bridges,” the expert explained.   

He also said that the other reason could be the quality of materials used, faults in fixing, deck collapse, or sagging in the bridge.

Some opined that the bridge could have been displaced from the deck due to bending and sagging.

Commuters said that the case of bridge collapse should be studied with the help of external experts.

“The reconstructed bridge could just last for 13 days. The authorities concerned have to look into the matter seriously,” a commuter said, adding that if it was not an issue of overloading, the problem is the faulty construction.

Some said that the department should be held accountable.

However, engineers claim that it is not due to the quality of the materials used.

“Although bridge parts were stocked for emergency purposes, it doesn’t mean that parts used are old. New parts were used for the reconstruction,” said an engineer. “All fixings were done as required and checked time again to verify the fixing. There are no doubts about fixing and tightening.”

He said the bridge experts from the headquarters verified and checked the bridge before it was opened to traffic. “We are yet to ascertain the cause. A detailed study will be conducted soon.”

The search efforts were discontinued yesterday around 4 pm due to swollen river. The rescue work would continue today if the river subsides.

Meanwhile, this bailey bridge at the Kuri-Gongri confluence first collapsed due to an overloaded and speeding dumper truck on May 23.

It was found that the truck carried an extra weight of about 10 metric tonnes (MT) beyond the bridge’s gross carrying capacity of 25 MT.

“The capacity of the reconstructed bridge was increased to 40 MT from 25 MT,” said an official.

He said the Department of Surface Transport in Lingmethang, Mongar submitted a report to the headquarters. “We are waiting for the directives from the Ministry of Surface Transport on whether to forward the case to court or solve it between the contractor and the department.”