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Damage that wasn’t controlled: Mumbai civic body expert points at corrosion at bridge that collapsed

The bottom layer of the Himalaya Bridge near Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus was corroded, which may have led to the collapse, according to Jaswant Arlekar, a structural consultant empanelled by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), who inspected the bridge on Friday.

mumbai Updated: Mar 16, 2019 03:46 IST
Eeshanpriya MS
Eeshanpriya MS
Hindustan Times, Mumbai
Less than seven months ago, the firm in charge of carrying out the structural audit of the bridge had declared it to be in good condition.(PTI)

The bottom layer of the Himalaya Bridge near Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (CSMT) was considerably corroded, which may have led to the collapse, according to Jaswant Arlekar, a certified structural consultant empanelled by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), who inspected the bridge on Friday.

“It is very clearly visible what is wrong with the bridge. The plate that holds the bottom layers of the bridge — where people actually walk — had corroded considerably. As they corrode, their load-bearing capacity decreases. This should have reflected in the structural audit report. It is surprising that the auditor failed to notice it during his inspection,” said Arlekar.

Less than seven months ago, the firm in charge of carrying out the structural audit of the bridge had declared it to be in good condition. The report mentioned that corrosion of the slab could be fixed with epoxy paint, and put it in level 2 category, which implied there was no reason to worry. The report also said the railing of the bridge had minor cracks, and some damage, which could be fixed by replacing some of them.

Civic officers HT spoke to immediately after the incident, too, wondered about the report, prompting a primary inquiry by civic chief Ajoy Mehta. The probe concluded the audit was carried out with apparent “neglect and irresponsible nature ... which led to collapse of the bridge and loss of human life”.

Ravi Raja, leader of the opposition in the BMC, said, “What is more outrageous is that BMC officers working on the bridge as lately as July 2018 did not notice, or care to check whether the bridge was fit to take the amount of load it is subjected to.”

According to a senior civic officer, the BMC laid tiles on the bridge in 2016. But after complaints from commuters that these were causing people to slip, they were replaced with granite slabs in July 2018. “Checking if the bridge was structurally sound even then would have saved lives,” said Raja.

The municipal commissioner’s report on Friday also held five civic officers of the bridges department (including two retired officers) guilty of lack of supervision during the audit. The report stated the auditing firm wrongly mentioned the date of construction of the bridge as 1998, while it was built somewhere between 1984 and 1986.

It seeks action against the structural auditor for his ‘casual approach’.

First Published: Mar 16, 2019 03:45 IST