In the wake of the collapse of the Kbal Romeas bridge this weekend in Kampot province, military police said on Monday that they had recently arrested metal scavengers for stealing the bridge’s bolts.
Motorcyclists traveling between Kampot and Kep municipality have been forced to resort to taking a boat ferry across the expanse of water that the bridge spanned. Car and truck drivers, however, must take a 21-km detour between the two destinations.
Em Sarun, deputy commander of Kampot district military police, said an overloaded truck was not the only factor in the bridge’s collapse.
In the past five months, military policemen have arrested scavengers taking bolts from below the bridge and reported the thefts to the public works office, he said.
“We reported the theft of bridge metal but I doubted they would take serious preventive action,” Em Sarun said.
“The bridge lost bolts and there is such an overload of trucks, that’s why the bridge fell easily,” he said.
Kampot Public Works Director Lim Sambo said he has made an emergency funding request for up to $25,000 to renovate 11 km of the detour.
“I am making a request to the Ministry of Public Works and Transport so that we could get money to help fix this shortcut,” Lim Sambo said.
“I can say that drivers traveling from Phnom Penh to Kep benefit by this shortcut of 11 km. But those in Kampot and Kep have no such gains because they have to drive the 21 km between the two areas.”
Lim Sambo said his authority would call first for the renovation of the detour road and then discuss the possibility of constructing a new bridge. He added that his office had filed a complaint with the provincial court against the owners of several overloaded salt trucks that were traveling over the bridge when it collapsed early Friday morning. No one was injured in the collapse.
Math Ly, a fisherman who is now ferrying villagers across the river, appealed to the government to fix the bridge and punish the truck owner.
“The government has to punish the truck drivers and make officials be responsible,” Math Ly said.