Many Killed and Injured as Karachi’s Shershah Bridge Collapses; More Still Trapped

Posted on September 1, 2007
Filed Under >Adil Najam, Disasters, Economy & Development
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Adil Najam

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.

47 Comments on “Many Killed and Injured as Karachi’s Shershah Bridge Collapses; More Still Trapped”

  1. Maria says:
    September 1st, 2007 10:47 am

    Assalam u Alaykum

    I feel sad at what happened… the corruption in our country is so deep rooted that it is frustrating.. the collapse of this bridge tells us of the amount of cheating these people do.
    Ive never felt safe going underneath these bridges, and now i can justify my fear!


  2. PatExpat says:
    September 1st, 2007 11:03 am

    We never lose breath when we ask for corrupt politicians to be brought to justice. Lets see how many Army men (NLC and NHA are run by army) are brought to book at this event.

  3. Affan says:
    September 1st, 2007 11:08 am

    What makes it even more saddening is that the bridge was built just a year ago! Although i am not an expert on bridges but i have never heard about a bridge collapsing in just one year!

  4. Reluctant Expatriate says:
    September 1st, 2007 11:09 am

    Just looking at the four pictures, it appears that the superstructure separated from the pier. This could be due to huge torsional forces introduced in a curved bridge. The connection between the superstructure and foundation pier may not be properly designed. Other reason could be foundation failure. After the rescue operations, I hope that authorities will focus on investigation of the failure rather than pre-maturely assigning responsibility and try to imprison people. Also records of the failure are documented in pictures and video.

  5. PatExpat says:
    September 1st, 2007 11:09 am

    Chairman NHA Maj. Gen. Imtiaz Ahmed

    Mission Statement
    To secure delivery of efficient, reliable, safe and environment friendly National Highway network with the view to improve quality of life in Pakistan.

    At a cost of Rs.3.5 Billion Rupees, life of the project 21 days!!! And the army has the audacity to call the politicians corrupt.

  6. Zobaria says:
    September 1st, 2007 11:14 am

    Who will take the responsiblity? They just want to shift the blame and sit pretty on their seats. Karachi used to be and still can be a beautiful city, may it become safer. Prayers for those who have lost and kudos to rescuers.

  7. September 1st, 2007 11:46 am

    This could be due to huge torsional forces introduced in a curved bridge

    you seem a professional. You do make sense because few mins back former Minister of Baldia Mujahid balock(1986-88) revealed that navy had been digging a 50ft deep well near the pillar for last 15 days so this could be the main reason.

    The latest news is that other parts of the bridge has start collapsing. Allah khair karay. I just shivered when saw hand of dead man in his white corolla.

  8. PatExpat says:
    September 1st, 2007 11:57 am

    50ft deep well? Were they looking for oil?
    Hope no one is looking for oil around Nazimabad Bridge.

    By the way, when are we having the ground breaking of Sharae-Faisal elevated expressway?

  9. dawa-i-dil says:
    September 1st, 2007 11:59 am

    Its ridiculous when some people blame polticians to be doubt they are corrupt..but forget the Pakistan Army Corporate Business private Limited ….run by few greedy land mafia ..DHA princess…but a mark of shame on whole 500,000 brave forces of pakistan…need not to tell…how the prsent C in C is in the feet of the most cvorruptest lady of Pakistan or world history..just t have a pie ..of more 5 years …to complete 13 “successful” years of Pakistan full of peace ..harmony…and honey and milk canals flowing all over Pakistan…..

    Plus…City Nazim..despte of his efforts ..cannot do when the whole city is under he control of mobile snatchers…Eidul Azha Khaal chors…and bhatta khors….of a Karachi ruling party….like..recent drowning of the city by Monsoon season..traffic problem…a rain of 70 ml…killed 260 innocents a month ago…etc etc….

    Krachites ..should realize that…whether they have to choose people on basis of pseudo ethnicity ..or pure political basis….

  10. Kashif says:
    September 1st, 2007 1:05 pm

    This collapse actually depicts the state of our society. We, as nation, are also on brink of collapse.

  11. September 1st, 2007 2:05 pm

    No water. Water pumping station was being built by Navy Jawans in that area.

  12. September 1st, 2007 2:08 pm

    Shamim Siddiqui is blaming everyone but not accepting that he should have resigned by now. How low are our ministers.

  13. Sa'ad says:
    September 1st, 2007 2:31 pm

    If you look at the full video reports, it appears that several large trucks were turning right at the same time on this part of the bridge which broke off. One tanker (hopefully wasn’t full but i am unsure what it contained) and one of those huge ocean freight containers on which you can load a whole house at the same time were seen overturned next to the fallen bridge. I suspect the collective weight of these HTVs was the cause of this collapse. Either way, it is unacceptable. A bridge should be able to withstand a lot more than this.

  14. MB says:
    September 1st, 2007 2:50 pm
  15. Roshan says:
    September 1st, 2007 3:16 pm

    God bless those innocent souls which lost their lives in the tragedy and pray for the safety of those who are trapped in the malba.
    Yes of course we need to look seriously into the issues of safety while commissioning the mega projects. One month life for a bridge is HUGE engineering failure of a nation. Last year, railways bridge near Karachi collapsed in the flood and disconnected the railroad link from rest of the country for about one month. We need to inspect all our new and old bridges.
    I am sure that whole nation would be in trauma of seeing the standards of our construction and the rhetoric of BOOM.

    PS. It reminded me the recent tragedy in USA when a bridge collapsed in Minneapolis and I was on my way to cross that bridge but narrowly escaped by the margin of 15-20 minutes.

  16. junaid says:
    September 1st, 2007 3:24 pm

    The corruption in our country has grown to that level which i think cant be brought down..what makes it feel more sad that it was just inaugurated 15 days ago. It is useless to accuse a particular party or a group. Everybody is involved and everyone shud b accounatble for this. Every body is so crrupted that noboday i m sure will take the resposibility

  17. Shafique says:
    September 1st, 2007 3:36 pm

    3.5 billion minus 25% to the Military Inc. minus 10% to MQM minus 20% to other functionaries and sub-contractors minus 10% to the pir or jagirdars = sub-standard bridge that has warranty of no more than 21 days.

    The government functionaries will give lame excuses and in essence say

  18. September 1st, 2007 3:42 pm

    Awful news, when will we learn. All those responsible must be tried and hanged!

  19. Roshan says:
    September 1st, 2007 3:45 pm

    God bless those innocent souls which lost their lives in the tragedy and we pray for the safety of those who are trapped under the debris.

    Yes, of course, we need to look seriously into the issues of safety while commissioning the mega projects. One month life for a bridge is a HUGE engineering failure of a nation. Last year, railways bridge near Karachi collapsed in the flood and disconnected the railroad link from rest of the country for about a month. We need to inspect all our new and old bridges.

    I am sure that whole nation would be in trauma of seeing the standards of our construction and the rhetoric of BOOM.

    PS. It reminded me the recent tragedy in USA when a bridge collapsed in Minneapolis and I was on my way to cross that bridge but narrowly escaped by the margin of 15-20 minutes.

  20. temporal says:
    September 1st, 2007 3:45 pm

    this is sad on many levels

    * plan scrutiny/
    * quality control?
    * construction safeguards?
    * on going maintenance
    * project overseeing?

    and more…

    my pet peeve re: this tragedy is directed at the radio/tv hosts and reporters and the people gathered at the site

    have been monitoring the tv and radio broadcasts earlier – and found it completely unprofessional – and i am not bringing up ethics!

    almost all the hosts tried to elicit gory, unsubstantiated and circumstantial info out of the reporters and relaying it directly to the listeners/viewers without any check and editing….

    their coverage would have been laughable were it not such a serious mishap involving loss of life…

    the crowd had gathered towatch the tamasha and were heckling the police and rangers who wanted to keep the access to the site open for the ambulances and relief vehicles…shouting anti-govt. slogans…sheesh…have they lost their marbles?…was that the time for raising their ire? and the radio/tv jockeys were egging on the on the spot reporters to elicit information about THAT instead of using their mikes to advice the listeners/viewers to stay away and let the rescue teams do their job

    * then all day they were harping on the type and availability of rescue equipment…as if their sudden interest would help the victims

    * then they were chasing officials..almost demanding blood

    * and the officials obliged – by announcing suspension of official responsible for planning and executing the project…should not this come later?…don’t they need these officials to aid in the ongoing investigation and to help check out other projects that might suffer from similar weaknesses?

    sad, but they all smack of yellow journalism at worst and irresponsible coverage at the best…

    wish someone gathers the tapes and teach them to students in the mass-communication courses on how not to cover a disaster.

    perhaps more later…sad, sad, sad

  21. September 1st, 2007 4:48 pm

    Real tragic incident. God bless the soul and give sabr–e-Jameel to affected families.

    I have seen the development of this project since its inception as i have to use it everyday while going for work. Every day i crossess this bridge, i used to pay ‘homage’ to constructors and consultants as i have never seen such bridge in my life. Some body told me a year before that due design problem, construction work has been delayed and when it was completed, any dumb person can guess the same by the style of construction.

    Thanx to chaos, adhocism, appointment of ‘non professional’ personnel on professional jobs, mass corruption and non presence of institutions which resulted this.

    Nothing would happen to all involved… we could not punish any one in our history, how can now!Every body know about the big fishes responsible for such constructions.

    I have witnessed all the mega projects in karachi and sorry to say all the project’s present condition clearly speak the level of corruption and quality of material and job. If any body has doubt please travel on signal free corridor and guess urself by looking at quality of job done.

    God Bless this country which is being looted by inhibitants!!!!!

  22. September 1st, 2007 4:52 pm

    Let me correct ADNAN

    The water pump facility ( underground) is the old one established in 80s as it was there bofore the inception of this project and manned by water board personnel. The water pump is used to pump water in lines for navy as well as for all related areas in vicinity.

  23. Viqar Minai says:
    September 1st, 2007 6:23 pm

    This is indeed a gruesome tragedy. Its implications on the development of further such infrastructure projects in Karachi are grim as well.

    Immediate thoughts, of course, go to the victims and their families for whom this must be a horrendous nightmare. May Allah(SWT) Grant them the strength to cope with their loss.

    That said, there is no point in wasting time until a proper investigation can be carried out to determine the cause of this disaster; use of such illogical methods is inconsistent with the spirit of being Pakistani.

    Let us set up gallows in the middle of the town and start hauling in the hordes …

  24. thanos says:
    September 1st, 2007 7:16 pm

    This is sorrowful, we also suffered a bridge collapse recently in the US, our thoughts are with you.

  25. Me bhi Pakistan Hoon tu Bhi Pakistan hai says:
    September 2nd, 2007 12:47 am

    I studied at Military College of Engineering Risalpur for three months after which i decided not to ruin my entire life after getting degree from there especially as I was a NUST cadet.

    Our fluid instructors was so capable that he wrote the simple Boyle’s law wrong and when he was told about his mistake, he simply said i was just trying to check how many of you were attentive in the class.

    So may be NLC has given nation the chance to get alert and realize what has already gone wrong and what the hell is going on?/

  26. Shahid Akhtar says:
    September 2nd, 2007 1:04 am

    Loss of life is very sad. I guess I shouldn’t be joking about it. I think the construction company must have been planning to kill Musharraf using the bridge on Aug 6. It just didn’t happen on time.

  27. BostonTeaParty says:
    September 2nd, 2007 5:56 am

    The bridge collapse is a bit metaphorical is it not — in Pervez Musharraf’s own Karachi, about the hollow claims of progress Pakistan made under Pervez Musharraf between 1999 and 2007 ?

    Having said that, corruption in Pakistan is certainly at an all time low when compared with Benazir’s time…and at least Pervez Musharraf has the decency to visit Karachi instead of attempting to conquer Karachi in a tank like Haji Nawaz !

    It is also a bit allegorical too, is it not, just like that recent bridge collapse in America where Pervez Musharraf’s master President Bush had to visit and shed a few crocodile tears ?

  28. Iftikhar Khan says:
    September 2nd, 2007 7:10 am

    It will not e possible to have a fair and impartial investigation while the heads of NHA, NLC and the Minister of Comunications remain in their offices. Suspending four officials of NHA is not the answer. Similaly the head of the disaster managerment authority has a conflict of interest in undertaking the investigations against his khaki brethern.
    The news item says NLC won the contract sole source without competition.

  29. Mahmood says:
    September 2nd, 2007 7:23 am

    Accidents happen everywhere in the world. Its the short term and long term response to those accidents that seperates the nations.

    I think the major difference between developed countries and Pakistan is that they have procedures in place to give proper response to such accidents, both long term and short term. That could include help to victims, accontability of responsible people, learning and improving the systems and procedures from the mistakes.

    To put such systems in place is not at all a problem, provided the nation has the will and positive attitude towards improvement.

  30. Shafique says:
    September 2nd, 2007 10:23 am

    Here we go again:
    Inna Lillahi Wa Inna Ilayhi Raji’oon

    “ab pul girgya ab kia karsaktey hain” says Shamim Siddiqui, the minister from MQM. 1.Committees set up to investigate other committees and agencies. 2. Payoff

  31. Javaid Aziz says:
    September 2nd, 2007 10:37 am

    There was a structural failure in the Big Dig Tunnel (Boston) and how it was covered extensively in the press is known to us. Some heads had to roll.
    In Karachi the Prime Minister did not even visit the site.Soon all reference to the Army connection with the bridge will disappear from the Pakistani press.
    No one will talk of the Father in Law of the Top General’s son ____as the big contractor/consultant of the Ring Road Project. Same person was Chairman, National Highway Authority in the time of Benazir.
    If we were a free country some people would be charged for murder of 8 innocent Pakistanis. Will that day come?

  32. Syed Saquib Saeed says:
    September 2nd, 2007 5:34 pm

    I wonder how many other bridges in Karachi are on the verge of collapse.
    I hope all bridges/other constructions by the company involved should go through a reliability check although, it is highly unlikely. The company involved is defence-related!!!
    Scenes like these are a result of contractors using cheap materials, hardware and untrained labour to reduce costs.
    Obviously, it’s a great effort to find ways to save as much money as possible. The rest of it can go into their pockets of course!!! Well deserved!!

  33. AUK says:
    September 2nd, 2007 6:21 pm

    From the news I have seen, the bridge was constructed by FWO after NHA subcontracted them. After the Margalla Towers, this is the second structural failure because of substandard design. While it is possible for Engineers to make mistakes, a project of this scale had to go through intricate review and scrutiny before it was opened for public use. It is a failure of all such processes that caused this disaster. What this means is that these processes are inadequate at best and need to be totally overhauled. It also means that NHA and any sister organizations are totally incapable of undertaking such sensitive and mega projects, and either these organizations have to have a management shakeup at the top, with control transfered to professionals, or else no such projects be awarded to them in future.

  34. September 2nd, 2007 6:31 pm

    I have pasted a link in the window about the American bridge collapse–Pervez Musharraf knows what to do !

  35. September 2nd, 2007 6:31 pm
  36. reality check says:
    September 2nd, 2007 8:52 pm

    patexpat displaying epitome of wishfull thinking, right on but no hope !!

  37. Jamil says:
    September 3rd, 2007 1:47 am

    And where is that media hound Mustafa Kamal now? Mr Nazim has not been seen since the flooding in Karachi a few weeks ago, and he is not going to show this time.

  38. Abdullah says:
    September 3rd, 2007 1:49 am

    Dear Adil,

    Karachi 2nd largest newspaper Daily Ummat reported this news w.r.t ur blog, see

  39. Aqil Sajjad says:
    September 3rd, 2007 2:06 am

    So is this bridge tragedy going to bring the issue of corruption back to the top (where it belongs) or will we continue to avoid giving it the importance it deserves?

  40. September 3rd, 2007 3:43 pm


    Had this accident occured in any other country I am sure the local government of that country would have resigned forthwith. But in Pakistan there is no such tradition. There seems to be no word of “RESIGNATION” in their dictionary. They have preapred few words on the accidents like these. “The culprits will be dealt with iron hands”. That’s all.


  41. reality check says:
    September 3rd, 2007 3:53 pm

    local govt is not to be blamed since it does not yields full power over affairs of karachi, as far as some one claiming UMMAT as a NEWSPAPER is a MISNOMER of which there is no example!!

  42. MQ says:
    September 3rd, 2007 7:36 pm

    It turns out that the National Highway Authority (NHA), a civilian institution headed by an army general, was responsible for building the bridge. NHA had awarded the building contract to National Logistic Cell (NLC), a military outfit, for building the bridge on a single tender basis, which means there were no other competitors for the job. NLC’s officially sanctioned and stated mission, incidentally, does not include any construction jobs. NLC subcontracted the job to other contractors. (It will be interesting to see who the these contractors were.)

    Former senator Farhatullah Babar has written a revealing article in The News today. You may like to read it here:

  43. Abu Taimoor says:
    September 4th, 2007 2:03 am

    I personally think that a committee headed by a reputable retired Justice should investigate into this. There are strong apprehensions of involvement of Khakis (NLC and NHA both headed by serving or retired Khakis) therefore, I am quite doubtful that a committee headed by a NED professor will be able to give an independent report because the influential circles belonging to the “sacred cow” will not let this committee work freely and professionally and I am quite sure that the learned professor would not like to be an OSD like Dr. Anwar ul Haq of PIMS Islamabad. We are an unfortunate nation ruled by a few who believe in “hush up policies” and are good at putting things under the carpet in the name of “National Security”.

  44. Anwar says:
    September 4th, 2007 4:06 pm

    The span of bridge seems to be structurally sound even after it fell down. It appeared to have sheared from a joint at the front end followed by collapse of the rest of the section. Interestingly enough, readers will notice absence of any support underneath the joint that failed…
    Compare that to any overpass in the US and one will see that underneath every joint there is ample columnar support.
    Someone misread the drawings…

  45. September 6th, 2007 2:04 pm

    my name is iqbal from lahore pakistan and i think that it is design falt otherwise bridge cont be demege. because i m draftsman in bridge directorate punjab highway dept. lahore

  46. December 19th, 2007 12:25 am

    I am very said when i heared the news about the bridge is brokened in karachi that was founded some days ago, it shows that corruption is deeply rooted in our country so they does not care the inncocents lifes.

  47. zubi says:
    September 7th, 2009 11:22 am

    i am so sorry for those poor people nobody can excuse the builders who built this coz due to their irresponsibility many lives were gone and as the wise always says (one person dead means that the family chain is dead)

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