Bridge on Goa-Mumbai highway collapses under incessant rains
Maharashtra woke up to what was probably the biggest tragedy this monsoon season on the morning of Wednesday, 3 August. The mishap took place near Mahad on Mumbai-Goa Highway as a century old bridge on Savitri River - one of the major rivers in the region - was washed away due to the floods.
Incessant rain in the Konkan region, over the last five days, has resulted in flooding of all the rivers in Konkan. Two Mumbai-bound state transport buses are reported to have been washed away in the flood as well. There were 22 passengers on board both the buses.
Apart from the two buses, there are unconfirmed reports of around 15 small vehicles being washed away from the bridge. Special teams of National Disaster Relief Force (NDRF) and Coast Guard have been pressed into action. Search and rescue operations are underway. The incident took place in the wee hours on Wednesday at Rajewadi near Mahad in Raigad district.
"Very heavy rainfall around Mahabaleshwar in Satar district has resulted in flooding of Savitri River. The century-old bridge on the river near Mahad could not sustain the high pressure of flooding water in the river and was washed away in no time. As of now, there are confirmed reports that two state transport buses carrying 22 people including drivers and conductors, are missing. It is feared that the buses were washed away in the flood," said Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi called up Fadnavis and took stock of the situation. The central government has assured all possible assistance in the search and rescue operations. Government sources said that the century old bridge had outlived its estimated life. Given the situation, state government constructed a new bridge parallel to the old one, around ten years back. At present both of the bridges were in use - the new one for Goa-bound traffic and the old one for Mumbai-bound traffic.
"The structural audit of the fateful bridge was recently carried out to assess its strength. However, there was no adverse report about it. Anticipating problems in future, the new bridge was constructed to reduce load on the old bridge," said PWD minister Chandrakant Patil. State transport minister Diwakar Ravate confirmed that two buses are missing. "One of the bus was coming to Mumbai from Rajapur and other was coming from Jaygad. Both the buses are missing after they left Mahad at around 12 midnight. Cell phones of drivers of both buses are not reachable. The last location of the phones is reported to be around the fateful bridge. The search and rescue operations are underway on war footing."
According to police sources, residents of Rajewadi, who were already alert due to very heavy rains and increasing water level in Savitri River, first responded to the huge sound of the bridge giving up and rushed to the spot. "People who reached the spot saw two state transport buses and about 15 other vehicles, mainly cars and two wheelers, getting washed away in the flood. They immediately reported the incident to police control room. After the information, a team of Raigad police led by Superintendent of Police Suvez Haque rushed to the spot and started search operations. Traffic on the highway was diverted via new bridge," said Sheetal Ugale, district collector, Raigad.
Three teams of NDRF comprising 45 jawans each have reached the spot and started the search and rescue operations along with Coast Guard. Given the heavy flow of water in the river, the search operations are extended upto Ambet creek, the confluence of Savitri River with the Arabian Sea.
The teams faced several hurdles as the river was flowing way above the danger mark. The fateful bridge had outlived the estimated life and should have been ideally closed for traffic. However, it was still in use despite a new bridge being constructed parallel to the old bridge. There are several century old bridges on various rivers along the Mumbai-Goa Highway.
The safety of these bridges has now come under question.
Three major rivers in Konkan, Savitri, Gandhari and Kal originate in Sahyadri Ranges near Mahabaleshwar. Heavy rains in catchment area of these rivers resulted in the flooding. Alarmed by the mishap, the civic administration has started assessment of strength and stability of new bridge. The traffic on Mumbai Goa Highway has been stopped till the assessment is complete.