The barely 3-month old SherShah by-pass bridge collapsed suddenly today killing at least 5, injuring many, and reports suggest that many many more are still trapped under the collapsed structure which is so huge that it cannot be easily lifted to save them. The bridge had cost nearly Rs. 3.5 billion to build and had just recently been inaugurated. According to The News:
A bridge of Northern Bypass at Paracha Chowk in Shershah area of the metropolis, which was opened by Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf on 6 August 2007, collapsed here Saturday, killing at least four people, injuring several others while trapping an unknown number of people under the debris. “Four people have died and over a dozen were wounded in the collapse,” southern port city police official Khalid Hameed said, adding that several vehicles were trapped in the debris.
However, a person trapped in the debris of the bridge was miraculously rescued. According to Geo News correspondent two dead bodies and three wounded persons have been brought to Civil Hospital Karachi, while four injured have been transferred to Abbasi Shaheed Hospital and one inured was shifted to Murhsid hospital. Rescuers were trying to clear the wreckage to retrieve injured and survivors amid fears the death toll could rise, they said. Witnesses said a portion of the bridge known as Northern Bypass fell with a huge bang while traffic was on it.
“It created such a huge sound that we thought it was an earthquake,” Zahid Khan, a resident of the area said. Karachi City Nazim Mustapha Kamal said the authorities were investigating the cause of the blast. The bridge was built by the state-run National Highway Authority. Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz phoned Governor Sindh Dr. Ishrat-ul-Ebad to seek details of Karachi bridge collapse, which has left at least four people dead, several injured and an unknown number of people have been trapped in the debris. The Prime Minister directed Ishrat to take no stone unturned in the relief and rescue activities to help the victims. The injured people should be provided with proper medical care, he directed. Shaukat Aziz also directed PM Inspection Committee to probe into the incident to ascertain the cause.
Chief minister Sindh Dr. Ghulam Arbab Rahim has expressed deep concern over the tragic incident of the collapse of a part of the northern by-pass bridge in Shershah and said that the persons involved cannot be pardoned. He said that an impartial investigation of the incident would be made.
With us having discussed Karachi’s infrastructure problems often (here, here and here), including the recent Economist ranking of Karachi as a difficult-to-live-in city, this bad news only compounds a bad situation. That the bridge was such a recent addition and was opened with such fanfare also raises concerns about quality and safety of the many other development projects going on in Karachi and all over Pakistan.
Our first priority right now must be the safety of those still trapped under the malba. As soon as that is done, we must all start looking at these infrastructure issues more seriously than we have till now.