Sunday, 17th December 2017

Baltistan cut off from country as part of Alam Bridge collapses



GILGIT: A major portion of a strategic bridge linking Baltistan region with rest of the country and Gilgit – Baltistan [G-B] has collapsed, leading to suspension of traffic on the second consecutive day.

‘Alam Bridge’ as it is called, sustained damaged on Thursday evening when a loaded truck was passing over it. The truck was heading towards Rawalpindi from Skardu town when it got stuck in the middle of the bridge, leaving the driver and his other colleague in a precarious situation.

The two men reportedly jumped off the vehicle to save their lives and made it safely across the bridge. Later, the truck was removed with the help of engineers from the Frontier Works Organization (FWO) which is responsible for the bridge’s maintenance.

“The incident has happened but thank God nothing happened like loss of human life or the property,” said a police official on Saturday, adding the bridge was closed for traffic immediately to prevent any mishap.

According to travellers, vehicles heading to Gilgit and other parts of the country from Baltistan were stopped near Alam Bridge and the drivers were told to return or wait for resumption of traffic on the crossing.

“This was bound to happen because the bridge wasn’t fit to cater to the needs of so many areas for such a long time,” said Farman Ali, a resident of Baltistan which includes Skardu, Ghanche and Shigar among other towns and has a population of over 300,000 people.

 “This is the only bridge linking the whole Baltistan region and I think it should have been replaced with an RCC bridge much earlier,” he added.

The incident triggered criticism in G-B against Mehdi Shah government that has been accused of mismanagement and corruption in the past. “The chief minister has disappointed us,” said Baltistan region chief of Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz [PML-N] Fida Nashad. “This strategic bridge should have been replaced with a better one over this five year. But this didn’t happen,” Nashad sair, referring to G-B government that is completing its five year tenure on 10 December.

An FWO spokesperson in Gilgit told Outpost the engineers have started repairing the bridge and traffic would be allowed on it within the next 24 hours.

“The engineers have began repairing the bridge and we are hopeful it would be fit for traffic by tomorrow,” said the spokesman.

The bridge, built with combination of iron rods and wood, is one of the longest bridges in Gilgit – Baltistan with about more than 300 meters in length.

In view of the bridge’s safety, FWO kept its men deployed at the bridge to ensure vehicles don’t pass it speedily.  In addition, trucks and other loaded vehicles weren’t allowed to carry weight beyond 20 tons while passing the bridge.

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