Thieves to blame for M4 bridge damage
June 26 2012 at 12:58pm
By Simone Samuels
The eThekwini Municipality put in place concrete safety barriers along the Ellis Brown Viaduct on Monday after thieves stealing components damaged the bridge, causing part of it to collapse. Picture: Puri Devjee
The eThekwini Municipality has blamed thieves for the collapse of the M4 pedestrian walkway and concrete barrier along the uMngeni River bridge at the weekend.
Thieves had stolen the stainless steel shackles that connected the structure to the supporting beams, Carlos Esteves, the municipality’s deputy head of the road systems management, said on Monday.
“The collapse was unforeseen, because the thieves were stealing the connectors under the bridge,” he said. “We are amazed that they were able to access that area.”
The Ellis Brown Viaduct over the uMngeni River was built in the 1950s, but Esteves said the assessment after the collapse had ruled out age or structural degradation as the cause.
It appeared that the thieves climbed over the railing of the bridge on to the supporting piers underneath it and crawled along the pier to steal the shackles.
Cans and debris that were found in the nooks of the pier were an indication that people had been accessing that area, he said.
A barrier wall and pedestrian pathway that collapsed on Saturday morning at Blue Lagoon. Barricades were put up day to ensure motorists could safely ise both lanes. Picture: Sandile Ndlovu
While he was not sure how the thieves removed the connectors, the city engineer’s assessment report could provide further insight.
Esteves said the steel was not significantly valuable in itself.
The Ellis Brown Viaduct had a unique design for securing the beams, which had left the connecting components exposed. Other bridges were designed differently and were unlikely to be at risk of damage by thieves.
The municipality had plans to stabilise and repair the surrounding beams, he said, and the concrete beams that had collapsed would be assessed to see whether they could be reused. Because of the complexity of the process, it would be at least a year before the section could be reinstated, he said.
The municipality was looking at ways to curb further theft.
“We assume that they were trying to get to the metal component and we are therefore considering encasing these stainless steel connectors in concrete,” he said.
Meanwhile, pedestrians will not be allowed to use the seaward side of the southbound carriageway