A vessel travelling south along the Demerara River hit the Demerara Harbour Bridge during the 5 am retraction yesterday morning.
A bridge official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that the impact “took down two sets of cluster piles” and shifted the retractor span “and so the bridge couldn’t be closed.”
What ensued were massive traffic jams on both sides of the river as motorists looking to cross were stuck for several hours as efforts were made to fix the damage. Stabroek News understands that the bridge’s maintenance crew was quickly mobilized, and by 09:00 hrs the bridge’s operators were able to close it and allow vehicular traffic to flow as normal.
But the work is not complete. An official said “the bridge is just temporarily repaired…the damage is major.”
A bridge official told Stabroek News that it was a fuel vessel which hit the bridge.
A call was made to Harbour Bridge General Manager Rawlston Adams for him to provide clarity but he was unable to do so at the time Stabroek News spoke to him. He said that the matter would be addressed today.
The ordeal was not bad for everyone though. While bus and taxi drivers along with lorry operators saw their day delayed by hours, and profit decreased by the hundreds and thousands, the speedboat operators who operate between the Vreed-en-Hoop and Georgetown stellings saw their profits soar on what is usually a very slow day.
One operator who identified himself as Travis said that people started showing up by the busloads, allowing speedboat operators to fill-up their boats quickly and move off. This was happening on both sides of the river.
Of course, the bus and taxi drivers did not share the excitement of their river-going counterparts. Dennis Nelson, a bus driver who operates between Georgetown and Parika, said that he was stuck in the traffic jam at the bridge for some time before he knew why traffic was stalled. The man said that he left his vehicle and approached a clerk at the bridge who told him that the bridge was closed for the moment because of an accident. When he asked how long the bridge would be closed, he said one clerk told him until 11:00 hrs, while another suggested that repair works might last the day.
Realizing that his passengers had places to go, Nelson said that he took them to the stelling in Georgetown so they could cross the river.
He lamented that he would have made $7000 from the load had he completed the journey, and insists that in such cases the government should make provisions for the owners of these vessels to compensate persons inconvenienced.
On September 30th 2012, two fishing trawlers which broke free of their moorings as a result of strong tides hit the Harbour Bridge.
A few months earlier, the bridge was closed for two days after a small section sank after the jaws of one of the piers supporting two temporary pontoons at the bridge broke.