A temporary bridge will be constructed to facilitate the passage of light vehicles into the South Rupununi in the wake of the collapse of the crucial Yamatawao Bridge in Region Nine on Friday.
The Yamatawao Bridge, which serves as the gateway to the South Rupununi, collapsed on Friday under the weight of a flatbed truck that was transporting an excavator.
Following news of the incident, the Ministry of Public Infrastructure announced in a statement yesterday that a team from the ministry had been deployed to assess the damage as well as the cost to rehabilitate the bridge.
The arrival of the team in the area was confirmed by Toshao Nicholas Fredricks, of Shulinab Village, South Rupununi, who told Sunday Stabroek that the Regional Executive Officer had accompanied the members of the team to make the necessary assessments.
As a result of the assessment, a decision has been made to construct a temporary bridge that would allow the passage of lighter vehicles, while the Yamatawao Bridge undergoes rehabilitation.
Nevertheless, Toshao Fredricks expressed concern that a delay in the rehabilitation of the main bridge could result in inflated prices for communities of the South Rupununi as the bridge was the only access point to the South from Central Rupununi.
“To construct a new bridge, [it] would take close to a month to get the materials. At present, they need an excavator to be transported to the area to assist with works but the region does not have another flatbed truck to transport it,” he related. “It is the rainy season and now we are cut off from easy access because there is no other alternative routes for business to be done,” the Toshao added.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Public Infrastructure in its statement urged road users in the hinterland to strictly adhere to weight limits, especially during the wet season, since non-adherence can lead to structural failures, as demonstrated by Friday’s bridge collapse.
“This incident is not the first of its kind and road users are reminded that they will be held accountable in instances of non-compliance to weight limits. Bridge collapses also affect communities, since they make traffic impassable and cut entire villages off from the rest of the country and road users are urged to remain cognisant of their responsibilities to properly use the roadways,” the statement said.
Fredericks had said on Friday that the collapse occurred sometime around 5.30 pm, when the excavator was being transported across the bridge. It, however, slid off the trailer of the truck. Both vehicles subsequently toppled into the creek below.
The truck was reportedly being driven by its owner, Cyril King, at the time of the accident.
Fredericks, who noted that no one was seriously hurt in the accident, said the driver erred, as heavy duty machinery is not permitted to traverse across the bridge. “They were supposed to offload the excavator and walk it over the creek and then reload it. But they didn’t do that and we have to suffer now,” the Toshao added.
The collapse of the Yamatawao Bridge occurred two weeks after the collapse of the Christmas Bridge, which is located close to the Kurupukari Crossing, in Region Nine.
The bridge was damaged when a truck, bearing licence plate GWW 5832 and laden with lumber, toppled into the ravine while navigating across. As a result, the driver was forced to jump out of the truck’s cabin to escape.
The accident was documented in pictures and videos that were shared on social media, which prompted calls for government to look into the rehabilitation of the Lethem trail, especially since the rainy season has reduced it to slush.
One driver who spoke with this newspaper at that time shared his frustration at having to traverse the road, saying that he like many others felt pressured almost every time he sets out to use it.
Calls have also been made for some kind of intervention to be made regarding heavy duty trucks traversing the trails, since, according to some, they continue to contribute to its destruction.
Similar calls have been made over the years, particularly during the rainy season, when the deterioration of the road results in what is usually a 12-hour-long journey from Georgetown to Lethem taking 20 hours or more.
On Friday, the Ministry of Natural Resources announced that six contracts, valued at over $650 million, were awarded to contractors for maintenance of the Rockstone-Mabura, Kurupukari-Annai-Lethem and the Linden-Ituni-Kwakwani roads, which is being undertaken.