The National Highway 37, which is also Manipur’s main supply line, was virtually cut off after an overloaded truck caused a major crack on a crucial bailey bridge across the Barak river in Tamenglong district. The officials have said that the repair work will take at least two days due to which over 200 trucks and 20 oil tankers bound for Imphal are stranded west of the bridge.

According to a report in The Indian Express, the suspenders and panels of the eastern end of the steel bridge broke and almost came off at around 4 AM today. Sadly, National Highway 2, the other lifeline for Manipur that passes through Nagaland, has remained closed since Thursday, following heavy landslides.

“The steel suspenders and panels of the bridge cracked when an overloaded truck was crossing it. We immediately shut the bridge, managed to remove the truck, and are now getting a contractor to urgently repair it. While resources are being moved from Silchar in Assam, the bridge will not be operational before Wednesday,” said Sunil Kumar, Imphal-based general manager of National Highways Infrastructure Development Corporation Ltd (NHIDCL), according to the IE report.

Notably, the bailey bridge has a load-bearing capacity of up to 24 tons, however, overloaded trucks have caused immense damage to this and other bridges on NH-37 connecting Imphal with Jiribam, the only railhead of Manipur 54 kms east of Silchar in southern Assam. The Barak bridge is 145 km west of Imphal.

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“Most goods-laden trucks from Jiribam to Imphal are overweight, some carrying up to 40 tons of goods, causing regular damage to the bailey bridge on the Barak. While minor damages are repaired by shutting down the bridge for a few hours, Monday’s damage was so severe that it was by sheer luck that the bridge did not collapse,” Kumar said.

The NHIDCL claims that it has asked the Manipur government several times for checking over-loading of trucks in the interest of this and several other bridges on NH-37, but nothing significant has been done so far.

“We met the state chief secretary and DGP on Monday too to apprise them of the situation and putting a mechanism in place to stop overloading of trucks,” Kumar said.

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