Four years overdue, the Quang Hai Bridge across the river in Quang Trach District stands near the site of a tragic boat accident that killed 42 people on the eve of this year’s Tet (Lunar New Year) festival, many of them women and children.
VietNamNet Bridge - A bridge in Quang Binh Province across the Giang River showed several cracks and leakages as it opened to traffic last Saturday.
Witnesses at the opening ceremony said there were many cracks visible, some five centimeters wide with water leaking out, and large pieces of mortar was peeling off.
Pham Quang Hai, deputy head of Quang Binh Transport Department that invested in the bridge, told Thanh Nien Thursday “maybe the construction has not been finished, so the errors have not been fixed.”
Hai said he would check the problems soon.
Work on the bridge started in September 2003 on a VND82 billion (current US$4.6 million) budget with a completion date of two years. The bridge would connect more than 3,000 inhabitants of the Quang Hai Islet Commune to other localities.
Nguyen Van Long, director of the central province’s Transport Department, said during a speech at the opening ceremony that the bridge would slake the “thirst” of local residents.
But a resident named Hoang, who lost a family member to the boat disaster around one kilometer from the bridge site, said “the loss was too much for us and we can no longer feel so happy with the bridge.”
Just a day before the bridge opened, the boat owner and steersman involved in the tragedy were sentenced to 14 and 15 years in prison respectively.
The court ruling also left many residents disgruntled. They, and other citizens elsewhere in the country, have questioned why no official was forced to bear any responsibility for poor management causing undue delays in bridge construction.
Quang Binh Province officials and residents had many times urged the Transport Department to speed up work on the bridge. The department always promised that it would do so, but never delivered on their promise.
Many local residents have also expressed surprise that 20 individuals and agencies were still granted certificate of merits during the opening ceremony for their outstanding “accomplishments during the building of the Quang Hai Bridge.”
The Tet-eve accident left 10 children dead and 35 others motherless in Quang Hai Commune. The boat was officially allowed to carry only 12 people and steersman Nguyen Minh Mau did not have a license.
Although some state officers said right after the accident that people should not associate the mishap with the delay in constructing the bridge, Long said at the opening ceremony that the bridge would reduce the risks of boat accidents for residents of the islet commune.