US MARINE Corps engineers are expected to complete the installation of a Bailey-type bridge in the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa this week, re-opening one of the city's busiest routes for the first time since Hurricane Mitch.
Violent flash floods and landslides during November's hurricane caused extensive damage to infrastructure and left much of the capital devastated. Almost 6,000 people were killed throughout Honduras, and around 8,000 are still unaccounted for (NCE 3 December).
The 74m span 'triple double' Acrow bridge, paid for by a World Bank loan, will replace the Juan Ramon Molina Bridge over the River Choluteca. The bridge will be built to the largest possible configuration with three layers of strengthening struts and two carriageways. It will improve traffic flow in the city, severely congested by the limited number of river crossings and ongoing clean-up and construction work.
But the World Bank still has more than 600m of temporary bridge in Honduras waiting to be installed, and donations of bridges from France, Germany, Sweden and Japan are also starting to arrive. World Bank task manager Steve Maber said the government had been slow to direct the work.
'We have still not received a list of where the bridges will be installed, which seems strange as they are paid for and ready to go,' he said.
Maber claimed the biggest concerns were now over re-housing people left homeless. Thousands have made homes in schools while the government struggles to relocate them to massive settlements of huts.
'Over the next few months I can imagine scenes where the national guard has to be called in to forcibly evict people,' he said.
There are also new fears that the badly silted-up River Choluteca will not be deep enough to cope with flows during next May's rainy season, and that many slopes around the city are still at risk from landslides.
'There are predictions that up to 18 hurricanes will hit the region this year, and up to 60,000 people may have to be evacuated from Tegucigalpa,' said Maber.