Pathankot, July 9 (UNI) The 117-year old bridge over the Chakki river on the Pathankot-Dharamshala-Manali highway collapsed in the wee hours today leading to suspension of road traffic to Himachal Pradesh.
Official reports here said that about 200 feet of the bridge on the Punjab-Himachal Pradesh border caved in due to a sudden rise in the water level in the Chakki, a tributary of the Ravi river. The rise in water level was attributed to heavy rains in the catchment area of the river in adjoining Himachal Pradesh.
The portion that collapsed was in Punjab territory, while the intact part is in Himachal Pradesh. Preliminary reports said that uprooted trees and boulders from the upper reaches of Himachal, smashed against three pillars of the bridge, as a result the concrete structure caved in.
The authorities immediately suspended traffic on the highway. The adjoining railway bridge over the Chakki on the Pathankot-Kangra rail section was also closed for traffic. This bridge too is very old and authorities do not want to take any chances.
Officials said that the central government had sanctioned a sum of Rs 24 crore sometime back for relaying the Chakki bridge and Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh had laid the foundation stone for this project in February this year. However the work on the project is yet to commence.
The road bridge was built in 1890 and it served as the main link for the Britishers from Lahore, the capital of undivided Punjab to the hill resorts of Dharamshala and Manali. It was often described as the Gateway to Himachal Pradesh from Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir.
The Chakki bridge was also a vital link between Chamba district of Himachal and the rest of the hill state. It was built mannually by the Britishers and over the years it had rarely been repaired.