Accident: None of the seven labourers washed away by the Amochhu after the Denchukha-Dophuchen bridge in Dorokha in Samtse, collapsed, have been found yet.

The bridge collapsed on July 11.

While the search has been expanded with more than 100 people combing the Amochhu banks for the past few days, the swollen river is hindering the search operation.

Nine non-Bhutanese labourers were washed away after the cable suspender of the suspension bailey bridge they were working on reportedly snapped.

The labourers were working on the last stage of the construction, which involves connecting the two sides of the bridge and only a 10-foot span was left to be completed, when the incident occurred.

One of the labourers was found dead and another was referred to a hospital in Siliguri with severe injuries after he was found caught between the metal bars of the collapsed bridge.

Denchukha Gup Hemraj Limbu said they started the search at around 8am. “We withdrew the search at 5pm,” the gup said. “The number of individuals searching had increased yesterday.”

Meanwhile, the cause of the collapse is yet to be confirmed. Works and human settlement minister Dorji Choden, who visited the site on July 13 said: “With regards to the loss of lives, the company is fully responsible for any compensation as may be required under their agreement.”

Lyonpo added that the company’s representative had come from Kolkota.

Lyonpo also said that the Department of Roads (DoR) is discussing with the management on the next step and resumption of the work.

The hanging structures will be removed to assess damaged parts. However, there is no damage to the towers and the abutments.

This 400-foot (122 metre) suspension bailey bridge will be the longest in the country.  As there is no in-house capacity to launch such a bridge, DoR had awarded the launching work to M/s Ramaa Engineering (RE) Kolkotta for Nu 2.82 million (M) through limited bidding.

Ramaa Engineering has records of successfully launching similar bridges at Reotala over the Mangdechhu in Trongsa.

The company had completed erection of towers and commenced launching of bridge parts from both ends for this bridge. Launching of the bridge parts was about to be completed with only about two hours left to complete the launching when the incident happened.

DoR officials in the Phuentsholing region also had a meeting with the Indian contractor yesterday.

A DoR official said that they discussed resuming the work.

“The contractor is mandated to redo the work,” the official said. However, the cable suspender will have to be totally changed. Other bridge parts will also need to be procured and replaced.

The contractor, meanwhile, has agreed to redo the works at the same rate. The government, however, will have to decide about the funding.

To completely finalise the matter on the rework, the contractor and DoR will meet again soon.

With regards to the compensation, DoR officials confirmed that the contract firm will have to bear it. However, without the bodies found, death certificates could not be provided, it has been learned.

Indian consul general in Phuentsholing, Pieyush Gupta also visited the site yesterday.

The construction of the bridge had initially started in 2012 and was scheduled to be completed in 2013. However, numerous problems plagued its progress. There were three parts in this bridge construction such as sub-structures and anchorage blocks, procurement of bailey suspension bridge parts, and launching.

The construction of sub-structures and anchorage blocks was awarded to a Bhutanese. With delays, the work was completed in March 2015 only due to the difficult the climatic conditions.

The second part of the construction also did not go smoothly as several materials were stolen, which prolonged completion.

Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing