Following the accident on the Mumbai-Pune expressway (e-way) on Tuesday wherein a tanker carrying ethanol burst into flames on the Kunegaon Bridge between Lonavala and Khandala, killing five persons and injuring several others, the Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC) will be carrying out a comprehensive structural audit of the bridge to assess the strength and integrity of the structure and ensure the safety of commuters in future.
The audit will be conducted by a team of experienced engineers and experts specialising in the safety and structural integrity of bridges. They will thoroughly examine various aspects of the bridge, including its foundation, support structures, load-bearing capacity, and fire resistance. The experts will closely examine the materials used in the construction, the design specifications, and adherence to safety standards. The primary objective of the structural audit is to identify any potential weaknesses, structural deficiencies, or vulnerabilities that may have contributed to the spread of the fire and compromised the overall safety of the bridge.
Radheshyam Mopalwar, managing director of MSRDC, said, “Our team had already visited and inspected the bridge and according to them, the bridge is in good condition and there is no need to be worried about it. Even so, we will conduct a structural audit of the bridge for safety purposes.”
Another senior officer from the MSRDC Pune division, said, “After the mishap, our team inspected the bridge. We even conducted a load test of the said bridge in which we found everything to be okay. But for the internal assessment report, we have decided to conduct a structural audit soon.’’
According to MSRDC officials, such audits are critical in terms of ensuring the safety of infrastructure, particularly bridges, which play a vital role in transportation. By conducting a comprehensive assessment, the authorities aim to prevent similar incidents in future and take appropriate measures to strengthen the bridge, if required.
Also, many local residents and activists have demanded a structural audit of the Kunegaon Bridge as the entire bridge was engulfed by the fire due to the presence of ethanol in the tanker. Such was the intensity of the fire that even the crane deputed to clear the road was completely gutted.
State Highway Police Pune in-charge, Lata Phad, said, “We have already contacted the IRB officials and told them to conduct at least a payload test of the bridge as it was completely engulfed by the fire. Fire may have caused damage to the bridge so such a fitness test is important to get a clear idea about it.’’
Arun Sabnis of Fulora Foundation, a non-profit which has been working for the prevention of accidents and for road safety, said, “This ethanol fire may have caused damage to the metal used while constructing the bridge. Hence, there is need for a structural audit of the bridge. In fact, the bridge needs to be demolished and constructed anew. We cannot play with the lives of common people.”
Whereas Vivek Devasthali, spokesperson of the IRB, said, “In line with the provisions of the ‘concession agreement’ under the toll-operate-transfer (TOT) model, the company has already conducted a structural audit and conveyed the recommendations to the nodal agency, being the owner of this project, for initiating necessary remedial measures. Any further requirement of another structural audit is a prerogative of the nodal agency. We reiterate here that safety, being our prime motto, the company is leaving no stone unturned in initiating all possible safety measures on the project proactively; however, we sincerely feel that engineering and structural intervention needs the strong support of strict reinforcement of traffic regulations.”