Rainy Season Disaster Updated

To say that the bridge collapse I documented yesterday is less than a disaster is an understatement. You have to understand that there is really only ONE main highway here in Panama; the Interamericana. Between David and the Costa Rican border the road is a divided highway. The bridge was the west-bound lanes. A bit to the south is a more modern bridge for east-bound traffic. This was the ONLY viable commercial route. There are two other east west routes but only one could possibly be used by semis. There is a northern route through the mountains between Potrerillos Abajo and Volcan is far too narrow with unbelievable turns and grades. I’ve been on this road several times and while it’s scenic, for sure, it’s really only suitable for automobiles and smaller trucks. There is a southern route, too, which, looking at Google Earth is flat but in either case the trip between, say, David and Boqueron will be at LEAST an hour longer than before.

Since the Interamerican is the only viable commercial road there’s no doubt that replacing the bridge will become a national priority. As you saw, the northern span is totally gone and the southern span’s understructure has been seriously compromised. The last I heard no vehicular traffic is being allowed on the southern span. People who live to the west of the missing bridge who work in David are taking taxis to the bridge and walking across the southern span and then taking buses into the city. Who knows how many buses were trapped on the western side? There are at least five bus routes that use that bridge so there must be some still over there. The question I have is how are the supermarkets that serve the residents over there going to be stocked? Via the southern route? Bring stuff in through the border from Costa Rica? We’ll know later in the week.

Take a look at these pictures. You can see that the river has, naturally, gone down…

Most of the time there’s a lot less water flowing…

In that photo you can see how the base of the bridges have been damaged.

It was reported that we got over 6 inches of rain in a little less than two hours so it’s no surprise the rivers rose as fast as they did. And it’s just a miracle that vehicles weren’t on the bridge when it went into the torrent. Check out this YouTube vid.

Those videos I posted yesterday were from the river by the house I rented, and will be renting again starting mid November, over in Boquerón also rose fantastically. It came up a good eight feet above normal and a foot or so of water, I’m told, actually got into the house. It totally took out the chain link fence that marked the lot behind my rental and all that’s left there is sand, rocks and dead trees.

Here are some photos sent to me by the young man who is friends with the house owner.

This pile of logs were left in front of the house…

Another problem around the area is that there is NO WATER SERVICE. Unlike in the States water lines around here are mainly PVC and most are above ground, so the trash carried in the torrents took out a whole bunch all over the place. Additionally the water purification plants filters get overwhelmed by the great amount of sediment and trash that comes with the rapidly rising waters and water service is shut off. It’s not an uncommon occurrence here to be without water. We just have to roll with the flow, and many people have storage tanks and pumps since it happens so frequently.

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