The structural integrity of Venezuela’s General Rafael Urdaneta bridge, designed by the same engineer who designed the collapsed Morandi bridge in Genoa, has been questioned.
The Urdaneta bridge connects 2 million people who live in the city of Maracaibo with the rest of the country.
It is five years older and, at 8.7km, eight times longer than the Morandi bridge in Genoa, designed by Riccardo Morandi, which collapsed on Tuesday with the loss of 38 lives.
Its pylons have not been inspected for more than two decades and the weighing system, which is supposed to calculate the loading on the bridge, "has not worked for years", according to Marcelo Monot, former president of the Zulia Engineering Centre in Maracaibo, who was interviewed by Le Monde.
The Urdaneta bridge was built in 1962, at which time it was the longest in the world, crossing part of Lake Maracaibo in northern Venezuela.
It partially collapsed in 1964 after an oil tanker collided with two of its piers. This led to the prestressed concrete deck being replaced by steel.
At present the bridge is closed after a fire in an electrical substation at one of its ends.
An alternative to the Maracaibo bridge, the Nigale bridge, has been under construction by Odebrecht for 12 years, but only 17% has been completed, according to Monot.
The Wadi Al-Kuf, the third Morandi-designed bridge in the world, was closed by the Libyan authorities in 2017 following inspections that identified potential cracks. It was built between 1965 and 1972, and its 160m pylons made it the second highest bridge in Africa.
Image: The General Urdaneta bridge was the longest in the world when built (Creative Commons)