By Tony Edike
ENUGU – THE collapse of the 50-year-old Abakpa-Nike Bridge in Enugu State capital Wednesday night following an intense rainfall Thursday caused heavy traffic build up in the city.
Residents of the densely populated Abakpa-Nike who passed through the bridge late Wednesday evening woke up Thursday morning to discover to their that the bridge had collapsed, cutting them off from other parts of the city.
Mindful of the severe hardship which the residents would encounter on account of the incident, Governor Sullivan Chime, who returned from a trip to Abuja Thursday drove straight to the scene and quickly mobilized the Arab Contractors to commence repair work on the bridge, which one of the embankments was washed away by flood.
The state government, according to the Commissioner for Information, Mr. Chuks Ugwoke, is determined to get the bridge repaired without delay hence the quick mobilization of the construction firm to the site.
Although no life was lost in the disaster, it, however, caused a major traffic problem for motorists plying Abakpa-Nike, Emene and Trans-Ekulu axis Thursday as most residents of the area were forced to return home, while some trekked to their places of work, market and school.
Commercial motorcyclists had a field day as they moved mostly traders from the markets to their homes, with no arrest by members of the state government’s task force which banned motorcyclists from plying dual carriageways in the city.
A private taxi driver, Mr. Solomon Agu, who was on the verge of plying the bridge before it collapsed, said that the earth on which the bridge stood shook heavily for about two minutes before it gave in.
He narrated: “I was taking a passenger home that night when the earth suddenly started throwing my car up and down, while my passenger repeatedly called on the name of Jesus.
“This made me to apply the brake immediately, but even at that, the car kept bouncing while the earth shook. This whole thing happened within two minutes and I was just approaching the tip of the Abakpa Bridge.
“By the time the earthquake stopped, I turned on my head lamp to continue the journey, but to my surprise, the soil before me had sunk into the earth and the bridge after it had also collapsed.
“Immediately, I alerted upcoming motorists, most of them on top speed despite the rain, and we made a swift reverse. This caused traffic that night, which lasted till about midnight.”
A resident of Abakpa, Miss Chinaza Ulelu, who also spoke on the disaster said:“This noise that erupted before the bridge collapsed was really frightening and most of us fled our homes not minding the heavy rain.”
She said, “We had to flee thinking it could be another plane that was trying to crash land since the airport is close by. Although the airport has not been functional for some time now, but we didn’t want to take chances.”
Meanwhile, the South-East Zonal Coordinator of the National Emergency Management Agency, Dr. Bandele Onimode, has blamed the bridge collapse on the “indiscriminate dumping of refuse by residents in the area.”
Onimode said, “The refuse blocked the normal flow of water and because of the heavy downpour, water had to find its way into the earth under the bridge and it gave way.”