M A I N   N E W S

86-year-old Kangra bridge collapses
Ashok Raina

Kangra, August 4
The-86-year-old Bathu bridge, lifeline of the Kangra valley connecting this lush green valley to the rest of the state and neighbouring Punjab, near Ranital, 14 km from here, on the national highway collapsed in the wee hours today following incessant rain.

The bridge, which had out lived its life, was a victim of government apathy and was in a dilapidated condition for years together. The bridge was constructed 86 years ago during the British rule to connect the Kangra valley with Punjab. It was strategically important as the headquarters of 9 Corps was established in Yol Cantonment.

The bridge collapsed this morning between 5.30 am and 6 am. A span of 40 feet of the bridge fell into the Bathu Khad which was in spate following the incessant rain since last night. According to an eye witness, a truckload of pilgrims who were on way back from Kangra to Punjab after paying obeisance at the Bajjreshwari temple had just crossed the bridge when a portion of the bridge collapsed. They had a narrow escape.

The bridge is on National Highway 88 and a separate wing of PWD is looking after the national highways. After the bridge collapsed, the pilgrims and other passengers used the railway track for their movement. Till 12 noon the subdivisional authorities did not report at the site of the accident and the pilgrims in hundreds were crossing over to Kangra valley through the railway track which is at a height of more than 200 feet from the Bathu Khad. It was only after the SDM, Kangra, Ms Sudha Devi, reached the spot at 12 noon that the police started stopping people from using the railway track for crossing the Bathu Khad.

Hundreds of people, most of them pilgrims, got stranded on both sides of the National Highway and they had to trudge the distance of 4 to 5 km on foot to reach Daulatpur from where the traffic was diverted.

Ms Sudha Devi told this correspondent that traffic had been diverted via Daulatpur Suni, Sarotri Badoh and Ranital via Gaggal Tiara Lunj. She said this link diversion would have 45 km extra travel to reach Ranital.

The trauma of the people in general and pilgrims in particular aggravated when a truck got stuck on the Sarotri link diversion forcing the authorities to put the entire traffic on the Gaggal Tiara Lung road. None of the officers of the National Highway PWD Department reported at the site till 2 pm. No official of the National Highway was available for the comments.

Mr Palia, Executive Engineer, PWD, Kangra, who reached the spot, said he was directed by the Secretary, PWD, to rush to the site as the Executive Engineer, National Highway, could not be contacted .

When SDM Sudha Devi was asked why no action had been taken despite newspapers having highlighting the issue, she put the ball in the court of the National Highway authorities and said they alone could speak on the issue.

The Bathu bridge was flooded by the rain water leaving vehicles stranded on both sides of the bridge and the railings of the bridge gave way due to accumulated rain water and its old age.

Mr P.R. Agnihotri, retired Executive Engineer and a construction consultant, today told this correspondent that the bridge had technically outlived its life of 60 years and a new bridge was required.

This bridge is important for tourists visiting Chamba and Kulu valley too.

Mr S.K. Nag, Executive Engineer, National Highway, was not available for his comments. The Tribune had carried a story on July 27, 2006 ‘ Bridge needs attention’ but the bridge was left unattended.

The optical fibre cable passing through the bridge was damaged which left communication in most parts of the Dehra and Kangra disrupted. The telecom authorities started repair of the damaged OFC.





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