Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Caracas cut off from major airport and seaport, the viaduct is over

* A major highway linking Caracas with Venezuela's second largest seaport and largest national and international airports was closed on January 5th because of "fractures" at Viaduct 1, and authorities did not rule out a definitive closure of the road.

* "Over the night, the viaduct shifted and some fractures occurred that need close examination. With a view to ensure the security of users, we are suspending all traffic on the bridge," said Infrastructure Minister Ramón Cañizales Rengifo.

* He added that the closure of Viaduct 1 "could be final," but such a decision is to depend on the results of the relevant assessment.

* "Our major concern is people's security. Based on the relevant assessments to be conducted today (January 5th), we are to determine whether some works are needed to resume traffic, but if there is any level of insecurity or risk for people, rest reassured that this closure will be final," Cañizales said.

* He added that "there is a high possibility that this closure is final because of the damages seen in the structure."

* Cañizales explained that fractures occurred in the viaduct arches.

* Vehicular traffic between Caracas and La Guaira is taking place over the so-called Caracas-La Guaira old road. Heavy load traffic has been suspended during daytime to prevent traffic jams.

* The Caracas-La Guaira old road is under a stringent security operation by the National Guard, local police and terrestrial traffic officers, as it traverses slums west Caracas.

Normal operation
* Simón Bolívar International Airport, in Maiquetía, Vargas state, is to continue to operate normally despite the closure of Caracas-La Guaira highway following serious structural damages in Viaduct 1 in such route, said Humberto Figuera, vice-president of the Venezuelan Airlines Association.

* He added that in the event that the bridge is closed definitely, contingency plans are to be implemented for transportation of passengers from and to the largest Venezuelan airport.

* Figuera indicated that passengers could travel in buses. In the event of a definitive closure of the viaduct, passengers could be flown from Maiquetía to Caracas airport (located outside Caracas.)

* Sources did not rule out the possibility that some airlines may decide to conduct operations from other airports, given the problems resulting from the suspension of terrestrial traffic over the Caracas-La Guaira highway.

Harsh criticism
* Opposition leader and presidential candidate for Primero Justicia party Julio Borges on January 5th pointed at the Venezuelan government for the emergency situation facing the country after the closure of Viaduct 1 in the highway linking Caracas with Venezuela's largest international and national airports and second largest seaport.

* He added that citizens have not been informed faithfully on the situation. "Venezuelans are facing today the consequences of a government that lacks transparency. The conditions facing this route should have been unveiled long time ago, as well as the relevant contingency plans," he said.

* According to Borges, Hugo Chávez' administration has to find the culprits for such a negligence and offer people residing in Vargas state a solution, as they have been left virtually cut off from Caracas and the rest of the country.

* He criticized the fact that the Venezuelan government has made significant donations of funds abroad, while people in the country are not given any solution to problems such as the serious situation facing the Caracas-La Guaira highway.

* Opposition Copei party Secretary-General in central Vargas state Rubén Contreras put the blame on January 5th on the government for the collapse of Viaduct 1 on Caracas-La Guaira road.

* "We, Vargas residents, are suffering the plight of an inefficient, inconsistent government," the official regretted.

* He noted that the government has had seven years to recover the Caracas-La Guaira old road and the Carayaca road, but nothing has been done.

* In a press release, Contreras criticized the government arrogance for refraining itself from asking for help of true experts.

* "The engineers of democracy built this country with works such as El Guri and Santo Domingo dams; buildings such as Parque Central; bridges such as Lake Maracaibo or Ciudad Bolívar. Rather, the improvised bureaucracy of President Hugo Chávez has destroyed what they received, giving million dollars abroad, buying vilely the conscience of irresponsible leaders."

No political cost expected
* Vice-President José Vicente Rangel declared that an emergency treatment has been granted to the situation in Viaduct 1 on Caracas-La Guaira highway. "This means that all the government resources are available for this emergency."

* Rangel reported that the government is assessing the economic impact of traffic interruption caused by the closing. Potential political impact on the government of President Hugo Chávez "is the least important at this moment. I do know that some turkey buzzards are making plans and I think they will have fun for what is going on."

* As stated by the Vice-President, "it was not known" that the viaduct was to collapse to the extent of having to stop the traffic. "Whoever who claims to have known it is making a bold remark." He defended responsiveness of the authorities. "I think that they were not late."

* In Rangel's view, the event was due to recent weather conditions that resulted in landslides. "This can happen in any construction and anywhere else in the world."

* He pointed to contingency plans regarding power and water supply, as well as alternative ways and sites for shipment.

* Viaduct 1 of the highway linking Caracas to the Venezuelan largest international and national airports and the second largest seaport collapsed early on January 5th as the slope supporting its western foundations slid by 25 centimeters causing cracks in the bridge, allegedly because of heavy rains fallen in the area in the last few days, said Infrastructure Minister Ramón Cañizales.

* He dismissed claims that the slope moved because of engineering works the Infrastructure Ministry conducted to try to prevent the bridge from collapsing over a deep ravine. "We started to cut the joints at around 10:00 p.m. We left after midnight and everything was right." Early on January 5th, serious damages were detected in the bridge structure and arches.

* "The way I see it, the closure of the highway is final," said the official, adding that authorities are to complete technical assessments before deciding whether the move is temporary or final.

* He insisted that the ground on the slopes where foundations are based has been shifting since 1999, but not as quickly and massively as it did over the last few months (around one centimeter a day).

Unclear future
* Meanwhile, Interior and Justice Minister Jesse Chacón asserted: "The 20-minute journey between Caracas and La Guaira is over." He added that citizens should understand that the country is facing a contingency and therefore they should prepare for any emergency measures.

* Regarding infrastructure, Chacón said an alternative road is under construction. Meanwhile, traffic has been deviated to Caracas-La Guaira old road, a route that traverses slums in west Caracas. Such a route and other alternative roads are being conditioned.

* In order to face aerial and terrestrial transportation problems emerging from this situation, the government is coordinating efforts with airlines and transportation firms.

* Special security plans are to be deployed to ensure protection of people using alternative routes between Caracas and La Guaira.

* Meanwhile, some 200 families living near the affected slopes are being evicted.

* Chacón ensured that a contingency route would be completed by the end of February, adding that a new bridge to replace the damaged viaduct would be completed in 15 months.

* Technical surveys by experts are under way to determine whether to rescue Viaduct 1 of Caracas-La Guaira highway or close the bridge definitely, said Friday Infrastructure Vice-Minister Álvaro Carrasco Roa.

* He conceded that sewage, wastewaters and rainwaters have been saturating the slopes of the valley where the viaduct is located. "Shifting grounds were detected as early as the 80's."

* The official ratified that a new bridge would be completed in the first quarter of 2007, as construction has already started.

* Carrasco told local news TV network Globovisión that pedestrian traffic over the bridge would be suspended as of Janaury 6th to prevent panic or accidents as a result of further movements of the viaduct.

* He explained that heavy traffic is moving through the alternative Caracas-La Guaira old route from 10:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m.

* He added that works conducted in the bridge would prevent a total collapse. "It will not crumble," he ensured.

* The Ombusdman and the Attorney General Office joined efforts with Civil Protection to evict totally the residents of Nueva Esparta, a slum located near Viaduct 1.

* Civil Protection National Director Antonio Rivero repeated that the local residents are in an increasingly risky area due to the collapse of Viadut 1, and they should leave as soon as possible to safeguard their lives.

* "Refuges in Paracotos, Los Teques and Fuerte Guaicaipuro in central Miranda state have been prepared already. There, the authorities will be ready to aid these people," he commented.

Taken from eluniversal.com

No comments: