The narrow bridge passing over the Jagbudi river at Khed in Ratnagiri district has become a hotspot for accidents. Just 15 days before Tuesday’s accident, which killed 37 people, the police officials had written to the Public Works Department (PWD) asking it to carry out reconstruction work of bridge and install stronger railings. Three accidents had occurred during nighttime on the bridge in last two months.
“A truck fell off from the starting point of the bridge a month ago. A few days ago, a motorcyclist fell off the bridge from the same after the railing failed to break his fall. The victims had stopped to answer a phone call. But when he held the railing to balance himself and the motorcycle, it gave way. We have informed the authorities several times to reconstruct the bridge and install stronger barricades, but to no avail,” Burhan Tanke, a resident of Khed, said.
Takne was one of the several locals who assisted authorities in executing the rescue operation after yesterday’s accident.
“There are blind turns on both sides of the bridge. Width of the bridge is narrower than the road, thus inducing error of judgement of drivers’ part. Two vehicles cannot pass simultaneously. Narrow breadth and weak railings make driving on the bridge a dangerous manoeuvre. Steep slopes on both sides of the bridge automatically increase the speed of the vehicle. Just 15 days ago we had informed the PWD to take necessary action to avoid mishaps,” Additional Superintendent of Police (SP) for Ratnagiri Nandakumar Thakur said.
He said the Mumbai-Goa highway (NH 17) passes through three districts — Raigad, Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg, of which Ratnagiri is most accident-prone zone.
“You will not find even a single kilometre of straight road at a stretch. There are continuous turns and bridges on this route. Just like Jagbudi, bridges on Shastri and Vasishta river are equally dangerous,” Thakur said.
When the PWD office in Ratnagiri was contacted, Junior Engineer Arvind Koiba said, “We cannot reconstruct or repair the bridge without receiving permission from the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI). Mumbai-Goa is a national highway and we have to take their permission before carrying any kind of work. Though we conveyed the concerns of the police and the locals, demanding a complete makeover for the bridge citing safety issues, the NHAI refused our proposal due to upcoming project for construction of four-lanes on the Mumbai-Goa highway.”