Manipur’s main supply line, National Highway 37, was virtually cut off after an overloaded truck caused a major crack on a crucial bailey bridge across the Barak river in Tamenglong district early Monday morning, with officials ruling out chances of repair in the next two days. Over 200 trucks and 20 oil tankers bound for Imphal are stranded west of the bridge.
The suspenders and panels of the eastern end of the steel bridge broke and almost came off at around 4 AM on Monday when an overloaded 10-wheeler truck was trying to cross it on its way to Imphal, with an official saying it was sheer luck that the bridge did not come down altogether. National Highway 2, the other lifeline for Manipur that passes through Nagaland, has remained closed since Thursday after heavy landslides had sliced away about 150 metres of it about 22 kms south of Kohima.
“The steel suspenders and panels of the bridge cracked when an overloaded truck was crossing it. We immediately shut the bridge, managed to remove the truck, and are now getting a contractor to urgently repair it. While resources are being moved from Silchar in Assam, the bridge will not be operational before Wednesday,” Sunil Kumar, Imphal-based general manager of National Highways Infrastructure Development Corporation Ltd (NHIDCL) told The Indian Express over the telephone.
Kumar said that while the bailey bridge has a load-bearing capacity of up to 24 tons, overloaded trucks have caused immense damage to this and other bridges on NH-37 connecting Imphal with Jiribam, the only railhead of Manipur 54 kms east of Silchar in southern Assam. The Barak bridge is 145 km west of Imphal.
“Most goods-laden trucks from Jiribam to Imphal are overweight, some carrying up to 40 tons of goods, causing regular damage to the bailey bridge on the Barak. While minor damages are repaired by shutting down the bridge for a few hours, Monday’s damage was so severe that it was by sheer luck that the bridge did not collapse,” Kumar said.
He said that the NHIDCL has been regularly pleading with the Manipur government for checking over-loading of trucks in the interest of this and several other bridges on NH-37. “We met the state chief secretary and DGP on Monday too to apprise them of the situation and putting a mechanism in place to stop overloading of trucks,” Kumar said.