| Residents on the Vaina bridge after traffic was suspended because of the cracks. Picture by Amit Kumar |
Two cracks in a 49-year-old bridge on NH-80 have resulted in a over 50km long traffic jam from Kahalgaon to Sahebganj in Jharkhand since Wednesday night.
Villagers in Trimuhan, about 3km west of Kahalgaon, spotted the cracks in four girders of the bridge over the Vaina, a small tributary of the Ganga, on Wednesday afternoon. One iron angle on the span No. 2 in the southern direction fell down from the bridge. The villagers informed officials in Kahalgaon and also the NH-80 office, Bhagalpur division.
Ajay Kumar Pandey, assistant engineer, NH-80 Bhagalpur division, rushed to the site and asked local administrative officials to stop plying of heavy vehicles on the bridge immediately.
Pandey said since the damages appeared on the girders, traffic should be restricted on it. Two barriers were fixed on either side of the Vaina bridge late on Wednesday evening.
Traffic to Kahalgaon and Pirpainty, along with other parts of Bengal and Jharkhand on NH-80, has been hit hard especially after the closure of heavy vehicles on Gandhi Setu in Patna and Rajendra Setu in Mokama.
Hundreds of trucks were seen parked on both sides of the NH-80 up to Mirjachouki via Pirpainty, Kahalgaon and up to Bhagalpur on one side.
“I don’t know how to reach Allahabad and deliver the items on time,” said Mohammad Nasir, a truck driver from Balurghat in Bengal. Many truck drivers parked their vehicles beside the NH-80 since they do not know any alternative route either.
The pressure on Vikramshila bridge in Bhagalpur has doubled after the closure of Gandhi Setu and Rajendra Setu as the trucks take this route for reaching different destinations in eastern Bihar districts and Uttar Pradesh. The NH-80 connects Farakka in Bengal via Sahebganj with Mokama.
Lalmohan Prajapati, executive engineer, NH-80 Bhagalpur division, said traffic had to be suspended after identification of the damage in the girders. He said the state headquarters had been made aware of the situation and after taking the advice of the experts concerned, repairs would be initiated. The department on Thursday fixed permanent iron barriers on the bridge to prevent plying heavy vehicles on it.
Located near Ekchari and 27km east of Bhagalpur, the screw pile bridge on the Vaina was constructed in 1965. Another bridge on the Garua on NH-80 near this Vaina bridge collapsed in 1999 claiming eight lives. A permanent cemented bridge across the Garua was completed in 2008 and the traffic on the NH-80 had to take a pontoon bridge over the Garua between 1999 and 2008.
“Earlier, the Vaina bridge developed damages several times but the officials concerned did not take appropriate steps. Temporary repair remained the only option for this bridge and people have to travel on it with high risks. The government should take proper measures to avert major accidents,” said Randhir Choudhary of Kahalgaon.
Kahalgaon sub-divisional officer S. Alam said: “We are waiting for direction from the higher authorities. The NH-80 Bhagalpur division has also taken initiative for restoring traffic on the bridge after completing the required treatments on it.”
After closure of the Vaina bridge, trains remain the only option to reach Kahalgaon from Bhagalpur.
The eastern Bihar districts depend on the key highway that connects Farakka and other parts of Bengal. “I’ve been waiting for some six hours for the snarl to be cleared but in vain. I don’t know any other route to take my truck to Patna right now,” said Vishal, a truck driver seen stranded near Kahalgaon.
Even the officials had hardly any answer when the road would be cleared.