A small section of the Demerara Habour Bridge this morning sank causing all traffic to be halted.
General Manager of the Demerara Harbour Bridge, Rawlston Adams this morning told reporters that at around 6:45 am today the 60th and 61st temporary pontoons of the bridge sank which caused the sub-spans to be submerged.
While they have begun repair work, Adams said the bridge would be out of operation for the best part of today and tomorrow. He hopes that the bridge will be reopened to light vehicular traffic by tomorrow afternoon.
According to Adams, at around 5:30 yesterday morning works were being done at the juncture replacing a severely damaged “A frame.” He said the temporary pontoon was placed to facilitate the work and he suspects that the jaws of the “unifloat” for the pontoons collapsed.
Adams further said that the bridge was opened to normal traffic at 5:30 this morning.
He said although there were vehicles on the bridge at the time there was no damage to vehicles or injury to anyone as a result of the submerging.
Stabroek News was told that the incident occurred around 0645 hours shortly after the bridge was reopened to traffic.
The section of the collapsed bridge was under water this morning but the tide has now fallen. The bridge is the main link between Regions Three and Four. Thousands of commuters, many city workers are now stranded. Speed boats are the only other mode of transportation.
Commuters were heart-broken today.
A teary-eyed Saskia Persaud told Stabroek News that she was afraid to travel in the speed boat because it was her first time and the boat was rocking on the waves. The twelve-year-old said “I cried while coming over (from West Demerara) in the boat because I was scared. It is my first time travelling in the boat and I thought we would fall over when the boat started rocking.”
Her mother, Renita Singh explained that it was a very frightening experience for her as well since she does not use speedboats on a regular basis. She said “I normally drive her to summer classes or school and we hardly ever use the boats because even me is afraid of the water.”
Speedboat operators used the opportunity to ‘cash in’ since there was a mad rush by commuters to get to Georgetown. There were at least five boats loading at the steps per trip and everyone was scampering to board one of the vessels.
Speed boat operator, Michael Osmond said that this is the time they make ‘real money’ because of the rush and every operator wants to make as many trips as possible. He said “This is the time awe mek nuff money and everybody want to load and nah wait in line.”
In recent months the harbour bridge has undergone substantial repairs. Regular maintenance has helped it to avoid calamities like today’s. In the late 1980s and early 1990s there were frequent occurrences like this which caused severe disruptions to commuters.
The bridge is also coming to the end of its designated lifespan and a decision will have to be taken on a replacement.
The Harbour Bridge opened in 1978 and has been the major artery on the Demerara River. State-owned ferries ceased working on the river several years ago and its means that commuters today have to rely solely on speed boats.