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Water current washes away spans of 90-year-old bridge

Past its prime:The steel girder bridge across the Kollidam in Tiruchi, which was designed for 60 years, had been put to use for 90 years.M. SRINATH

A steel girder bridge across the Coleroon in Tiruchi, built around 90 years ago to replace a brick-arched structure that got washed away in the 1924 floods, collapsed in the early hours of Sunday.

The bridge, which had been in disuse after a new viaduct was constructed and opened for traffic in February 2016, developed a large crack on the 18thpier on Wednesday evening due to the strong water current. A day later, the crack got bigger, forcing the authorities to cordon off the area after crowds of spectators started showing up. Simultaneously, the adjacent 19th pier also developed cracks, raising the certainty of an imminent collapse.

According to a senior official of the Highways Department, a portion of the bridge between the 18th and 19th piers collapsed gradually, between12.28 a.m. and 1.58 a.m. The steel girder structure that went down the river was subsequently washed away. About 1.5 lakh cusecs of water was flowing in the Coleroon when the bridge collapsed. A large number of people from neighbouring areas witnessed the incident.

R. Krishnasamy, divisional engineer, Highways (Construction and Maintenance), told The Hindu that three spans of the bridge, to a length of 99 metres, had collapsed and got washed away in the Coleroon. The steel girder bridge, designed for 60 years, had been put to use for 90 years. The weakness of the structure, the sudden increase in the water level and the strong water current were the main reasons for the collapse of the bridge. One more pier of the bridge was also found sinking. It could go down any time, he said.

Allaying fears, Mr. Krishnasamy said the collapse of the old bridge would not weaken the new bridge. The collapsed structure got washed away downstream towards the east, he explained.

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