Six Additional Bridges Close – Or Collapse

November 13, 2009

In one way or another, a total of six bridges have closed since the Oct. 22 collapse of an aged suspension bridge near Orotina, on the central Pacific. Five people were killed in the accident.

Whether through fear of a repeat tragedy, recommendations from engineers, strong river currents weakening bridge supports or the impact of a 95-ton crane crossing a 35-ton capacity bridge, four government-owned bridges and two municipal bridges have been put out of action.

“Some bridges have already closed, and more may follow as engineers assess their safety,” said Marco Vargas, newly-appointed minister of Public Works and Transportation (MOPT).

Six days after the Orotina bridge collapse, the Municipality of Santo Domingo de Heredia, fearing a similar accident, used boulders to block the hammock-style bridge that connects the Santo Tomás district with the town of Socorro.

A week later, within hours of replacing Karla González as MOPT minister on Nov. 4 and employing the same reasoning as the Santa Domingo municipality, Marco Vargas reserved for pedestrian use only two hammock-style bridges in Grano de Oro de Turrialba, on the Caribbean slope, and in San Jerónimo de Esparza, a town near the Pacific port of Puntarenas.

The bridge that spans the Río Rincón, in southwest Costa Rica’s OsaPeninsula, collapsed on Nov. 6 after a crane weighing nearly three times as much as the bridge’s maximum weight capacity tried to cross.

Although no one was hurt in the incident, access to most of the peninsula was restricted to air or sea for several days. Strong river currents caused by heavy rainfall resulted in the weakening of two bridges’ structures and their eventual collapse on Nov. 9. One bridge was in Nandayure on the NicoyaPeninsula and the other in La Fortuna de San Carlos, Alajuela, north of San José.

Finally, a day later, the Municipality of Escazú closed a 100-year-old bridge above the Río Puente on the advice of its infrastructure and works office, which deemed the bridge to be unsafe.

–Sean O’Hare and Mike McDonald

 

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