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Shocked, terrified & speechless, mother describes seeing vehicle dives into river from makeshift bridge in Malaita

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Shocked and terrified before plunging into a state of panic, a Malaitan mother was speechless as she and many others witnessed a three ton truck overturned before plunging dangerously into a river from a makeshift bridge at Raraa in North Malaita yesterday.

“All of us were speechless as the vehicle dropped from the bridge. I was completely shell shocked and could not even say a word. I looked around and it was total silence. Then, moments later I heard some voices after seeing the driver and his crew swam out of the truck,” said the mother, who only wanted to be known as a school-teacher after witnessing the horrific accident.

Speaker exclusively to SBMOnline today, the school-teacher was thankful that the accident hadn’t claim any lives even though it was horrifying.

According to the school-teacher, 13 vehicles including two highlux were heading from Auki destined to several destinations in the northern region loaded with passengers mostly from Honiara.

The teacher was a passenger in one the vehicles.

Though they arrived on the Auki side of the Raraa bridge on Tuesday they were unable to cross as it was damaged during the bad weather.

The bridge and many others on the road link travellers from Auki to the northern part of Malaita ending at Fouia road-head in the Baegu/Asifoloa.

On that evening (Tuesday), villagers with the support of some of the crew and passengers built a temporary bridge made mostly of coconut trunks. However, the teacher said, overnight due to heavy rain the bridge was washed away.

As a result, she said the villagers with the support of those who were travelling in the vehicles built another bridge Wednesday (yesterday).

The teacher said following the completion of the bridge, the first vehicle made the attempt to cross with two persons, one of whom was the driver.

“It was during the crossing that the vehicle fell into the river. We all held our breaths as the vehicle overturned and swung into the river,” she recalled.

“Luckily, the two came out alive from the vehicle,” she said.

There were no passengers onboard except for the two.

The school-teacher said following the accident it was realized that the bridge was too narrow so they extended it to cater for the width of the vehicles.

“It was after that –that the vehicles started to cross at a very cautious pace. It was very dangerous but we had to undertake the risk because we needed to get to our homes,” she said.

The teacher said her vehicle crossed the bridge very late yesterday only after their driver recovered from trauma after seeing the accident.

“Other vehicles have gone back and decided not to take the journey further north because they were too afraid to cross the bridge,” she said.

Continued rain brought about by TC Jasper had further worsened the North Malaita roads which was already in poor condition.

The journey is not only risky but also very long, taking almost two days to get home on a journey that usually takes between three to five hours.

Let down

The mother said it is very sad that Malaitans have to take risks when travelling on their once good roads.

“Our leaders have not only put our lives at risk but they have let us down because they fail to maintain or improve our roads for safer travelling of our people,” she said.

She added the northern road is now at its worst state of condition and it has impacted severely on travellers this festive season.

She said even in the northern road a lot of bridges need urgent intervention.

“I encourage Malaitans going home to think twice because you only risk your lives by travelling on the roads,” she said.

The school teacher also feared that the new academic year which is one month away is unlikely to start on time as movement of teachers and the public on the roads will be restricted because of the poor state they are in.

News@SBMOnline2023

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