What Causes A Bridge Collapse: Act Of God Or Human Error?


Recently, a massive bridge accident in India led to the death of more than 135 people. The Morbi Bridge collapse left many casualties and injuries to more than 180 people. However, this is not the first case when a bridge failure has caused loss of life.

Bridges are the backbone of any country’s infrastructure development. They facilitate travel for on-foot pedestrians and vehicles. However, environmental degradation and failure to perform timely maintenance on the bridges can lead to a collapse.

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Reasons why bridges collapse

As one of the important aspects of connectivity, bridges play an important role in transporting cars, trains, and trucks over mountains, rivers, and roads. However, as with any man-made thing, bridges are also prone to collapses, leading to catastrophic effects.

But why do bridges that have been standing for decades collapse? Several studies have concluded that most failures occur when bridges are under construction or during erection. However, there are several other factors that can lead to a bridge collapse.

We have listed some of the most common reasons that can lead to such catastrophes:

  • The usage of inferior-quality material
  • Failure of connections in bridges.
  • Miscalculations by civil engineers cause a bridge to collapse under its own weight
  • Lack of maintenance
  • Design calculation errors
  • Degradation from environmental exposure
  • Corrosion and strength degradation over time
  • Natural calamities (earthquakes, tsunamis, and forest fires)

Out of these, using inferior quality material and failure of connections are the most common factors for bridge collapses. There are also a surprising number of bridges that were destroyed by floods, heavy precipitation, and scour. Flowing water over a long period of time can easily lead to the erosion of bank material from bridge foundations.

The second most common factor contributing to bridging failures is the lack of maintenance and construction mistakes. According to one study, design calculation errors by engineers are a major cause of deadly bridge collapses throughout the world.

How to prevent it?

Out of all the factors that lead to a bridge failure, lack of maintenance is the most preventable.
Timely inspection, repair, and rehabilitation works need to be carried out frequently to extend bridges’ service life.

Modern technologies can also be used to identify structural weaknesses and reduce bridge collapse failure in the future. Do you think we can achieve zero bridge failures? Let us know what you think about bridge failures in the comment section below.

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