Boat, Barge Ram Japanese Friendship Bridge

A tugboat and barge, carrying rock and sand bound for a construction site, rammed the Ja­pan­ese Friendship bridge in Phnom Penh on Friday.

The tugboat capsized and sank about 100 meters farther down the Tonle Sap river, while the barge went adrift until it was seized by authorities, according to Em Sambath, head of the mu­nic­ipal police post at the bridge.

Peng Sokun, deputy chief of the Municipal Transportation De­part­ment, said the crash was the fault of a careless tugboat skipper, who witnesses saw swimming away.

Peng Sokun said that officials tried to assess whether the bridge was damaged, but they de­cided that any damage would be un­derwater.

He said that the barge was operated by the Sun Hak company, which will be charged for damage to the bridge if necessary.

Em Sambath said the tugboat will be raised from the river to­day, and officials will try to gauge whether the bridge was harmed in the the collision.

He blamed the Ministry of Transportation for the accident, saying it had dipensed barge transport licenses too freely.

“It is careless of the Ministry, because this bridge was built by the Japanese with a donation of about $30 million,” he said.

The bridge, which was blown up by communist guerrillas during the Lon Nol regime in 1973, was reopened to pedestrians in 1994 and motorists in 1995.

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