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Collapsed bridge was declared safe by structural audit: officials

Doubts raised over consultant’s report calling only for ‘minor repairs’

South Mumbai’s Himalaya foot overbridge that collapsed during rush hour on Thursday killing six persons, was declared safe and only supposed to undergo ‘minor repairs’ according to a structural audit conducted late last year by J D Desai, a consultant appointed by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC).

The accident has now raised serious questions over the accuracy of the structural audit with the same consultant having audited several bridges in the city. The bridge, known locally as Kasab Bridge, was constructed in 1988. The floor tiles over the road section were replaced in 2016.

After the Elphinstone Road Bridge collapse in 2017, the BMC had ordered a structural audit of all city bridges, including the Himalaya Bridge. Officials on Thursday night said the consultant’s report had declared that the bridge was in a ‘safe condition’ and only suggested minor repairs.

The bridge was categorised C II B category (minor repairs).

Following the report, repair estimates were prepared, and a tender floated in the last few months, with a contractor finalised recently for the ‘minor repairs.’ The proposal to appoint the contractor was stalled after the announcement of the general elections and the implementation of the model code of conduct.

“We had never received any complaint regarding the structural stability . We only received complaints for broken tiles which we replaced. In fact, there was demand for an extra arm to this FOB,” Kiran Dighavkar, assistant municipal commissioner, told The Hindu.

A civic officer who did not wish to be named said the accident had raised questions on all the audits done by this particular consultant. “The consultant had declared that this bridge only needed minor repairs, when it actually must have been highly dilapidated. We are considering action against the consultant,” he said.

Additional municipal commissioner Vijay Singhal said the girders of the bridge were now being audited and by Friday morning a decision would be taken on whether they too needed to be demolished. A portion of the road divider across the D N Road was demolished and will be used as pedestrian crossing for commuters.

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