A steel truss bridge that collapsed in Colombia’s western province was inspected only three months ago. Local authorities are investigating the cause of the failure of a bridge spanning La Viejas River in the municipality of La Tebaida, western central Colombia, which collapsed on 12 April. According to Colombia’s National Infrastructure Agency (ANI), the bridge was built in 1984 and had been regularly inspected, with its latest inspection carried out three months ago. No concerns were reported at the time regarding the operation and capacity of the structure. The collapse killed two policeman and left 15 people injured. A statement from the agency reads: “On behalf of the ANI, the intervention team and the concessionaire are simultaneously evaluating the causes that could have caused this collapse. “It is a bridge from 1984, received in 2006 by the concessionaire that has had recurring maintenance, whose last pathology from three months ago did not report failures or concerns that would generate significant effects on its operation and its capacity.” The authority is also investigating whether the collapse could have been due to continued deterioration of the bridge due to overhead heavy loads or a maintenance failure.

ANI Director William Camargo Said: “We Cannot Rule out Any Cause.

“Additionally, [we must] verify static loads, dynamic loads and also explore the possibility that some small structural elements might have been tampered with which could have impacted the stability of the bridge by people intent on causing harm.” When asked about the fact the bridge had been inspected three months ago by local media outlets, Camargo said: “That is why there is talk of a sudden failure.” A bridge specialist, who asked not to be named, told NCE that steel truss bridges tend to fail in a sudden manner, and unexpected collapse could be attributed to the failure of single joint; a truss structure means one joint failing can cause the whole structure to collapse. ANI indicated the collapse might have been intentional. Columbian guerrilla groups have been known to target oil pipelines, public infrastructure and police buildings in the past amidst ongoing political conflict. President of Colombia Gustavo Petro wrote on Twitter that he was launching an immediate investigation to find the cause of the failure. He said: “I have ordered an investigation to be launched to establish the causes of the collapse of the bridge and those responsible.” Recently, the Colombian minister of transport Guillermo Reyes confirmed 40% of Colombia’s 3,800km of bridges were in need of maintenance, causing concern amongst people who regularly use them. He said: “We have 3,800km of bridges and close to 1,000km of these bridges, 40%, require repair and maintenance,” adding that studies of the condition of all bridges would be prioritised.