Mumbai: Crack in Kemps Corner bridge sparks collapse rumour

May 07, 2018, 15:00 IST | Hemal Ashar

As social media worries about crack in city's first bridge, its architect says it is just a design flaw that has existed since the time it was built 53 years ago

Kemps Corner bridge with the supposed cleave
Kemps Corner bridge with the supposed cleave

WhatsApp frenzy over supposed cracks in country's first-ever flyover tore SoBo's Sunday peace into tatters, as a photo circulated yesterday. The picture showed a portion of the Kemps Corner bridge with a fissure, ie a misalignment, which looks as if the bridge has developed a crack and is in danger of giving way.

The WhatsApp message that accompanied the picture said: 'Kemps Corner flyover. This definitely does not look right. Need to get this addressed. Please forward and share with as many people'. There was a flurry of reactions, some of which read: 'Scary!' Others read: 'Oh My Gosh', and some denounced the complacency of the authorities. One even said that there were other messages being circulated, stating the bridge was falling and traffic was being diverted.

Shirish Patel at his home. Pics/Bipin Kokate
Shirish Patel at his home. Pics/Bipin Kokate

Panic down south
As the panic spread, a screenshot of a social media post from Yuva Sena's Aaditya Thackeray popped up on phones. It read, "...Albeit the concern is legitimate, I request everyone not to panic as the alignment of the joint has a fault of levelling since its construction in 1965. However, the Hon'ble Municipal Commissioner has asked the BMC to anyway carry out an audit again soon and take necessary steps, if any, for the safety of our citizens. "

When asked about the frenzy, BMC chief Ajoy Mehta asked with a laugh, "Is the bridge falling down?" "We do audits regularly, as is the norm for all infrastructure. There will be an audit of the bridge too. There is no special audit being done," he said.

Architect assures
Shirish B Patel, the man who designed the bridge and uses it regularly, reassured, "There is nothing to worry about, the contractor had built it badly at that time. We, the designers, had protested, wanted it rebuilt, but BMC was keen on opening the bridge urgently. We confirmed there was nothing unsafe about it; it was just unsightly. BMC preferred to accept it. It has been exactly like this, not pretty, but perfectly safe. And it turns 53 this month."

Proof from 1990
Patel's letter (mid-day has a copy) illustrates the seemingly disjointed joint detail. Dated July 11, 1990, and addressed to K Pamanabhaiah, BMC chief at that time, it begins: "In 1965, we designed the Kemp's Corner flyover and managed the construction for B G Akerkar and Company, who were contractors for the job."

An excerpt from the two-page letter states: "The bridge was the first flyover in India and was completed within a record time of seven months, despite the fact that foundation conditions turned out to be totally different from what was anticipated, and the entire design had to be redone. There was a problem of fitting the correct type of joint detail between the pre-stressed and RCC portions of the deck. To have done it the way we wanted would have meant waiting for another 3 or 4 months for the material to be received.

The BMC was in a hurry to open the bridge... We confirmed that there would be no structural damage, but warned that motorists would feel a bump when going over these joints. To which Mr M S Nerurkar replied that he preferred bumps because they slowed down traffic and reduced accidents (sic)." Apparently, appearances are deceptive and Mumbai's 53-year-old concrete landmark is in robust health.

Also Read: Mumbai: BMC's Parking Shed Demolition In Kemp's Corner Leaves 1 Dead

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