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Bridge with trailer crashes into stream - Eight persons killed in sikkim

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By BIJOY GURUNG
  • Published 20.12.11
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Gangtok, Dec. 19: Eight persons were killed when a concrete bridge with a trailer carrying power equipment came crashing down on a mountain stream in East Sikkim today.

Two persons, one of them a 14-year-old boy, also went down with the bridge but came clambering up with minor injuries.

The 58-wheel truck with eight persons on board plunged 70ft below in a stream near Dikchu. The road, an alternative to the earthquake-hit North Sikkim highway, has been cut off.

The police chief of East district, M.S. Tuli, said the crash occurred around 1.30pm when the truck carrying transformers was on its way to the construction site of a private hydroelectric power company in North Sikkim.

Although Tuli did not name the company, sources said the only hydel project in North Sikkim has been undertaken by Teesta Urja.

Rescuers who reached the spot at 2.30pm managed to extricate three bodies from under the debris of the bridge and the truck. “The trailer fell into the Rangchang Khola, a mountain stream. Five more bodies are still trapped there,” Tuli said. (See chart)

He said the police and the East Sikkim district authorities had been engaged in rescue operations. “It will be very difficult to carry out work at night and we have approached the army and the BRO for help,” Tuli said.

One of the deceased has been identified as Thal Bahadur Gautam, who was in the truck. Police said he was a resident of Tuming Barang village which is along the Singtam-Dikchu-Mangan road where the accident occurred. It was on the same route that six tourists and a driver were killed when their SUV rolled 1000ft down a hillside on the night of December 13. The tourists were on their way from North Sikkim to Gangtok on a foggy night.

Sources in the Border Roads Organisation, which is in charge of the road, said the bridge had been commissioned in 2009 and had replaced a Bailey bridge. Sources in the BRO said the Bailey bridge could now be put back into use for movement of light traffic.

Khem Bahadur Basnet, a resident of the area was walking on the bridge, while Tikaram Dorjee was standing on the Dikchu end when the huge trailer rolled by.

“Suddenly the bridge gave way and I fell along with the debris. I was in a daze, but managed to clamber up and escape with minor cuts and bruises,” 50-year-old Basnet said. Tikaram, too, escaped with minor bruises but both were taken to the Singtam government hospital, 19km away.

The chief engineer of the BRO in Sikkim, Brigadier Rajiv Sawhney, was not available for comment. But a senior BRO officer said the bridge was 80-metres long and 8.5-metres wide. “The bridge had a carrying capacity of 70 tonnes. But we have heard that the trailer, along with the equipment it was carrying, weighed at least 100 tonnes. All transporters plying on this route know the carrying capacity of this bridge. We are going to have our own probe. We will also inspect five other similar bridges along this route,” the officer said.

He said the BRO always puts up signboards declaring the safe carrying capacity of each bridge under its jurisdiction. “This road has very high traffic of heavy vehicles. Most transporters from the plains, including the army, move their goods along this route (from Singtam) instead of going all the way up to Gangtok and then taking the North Sikkim highway,” he said.