A temporary wooden footbridge in Viengkham district, Luang Prabang province, has been damaged during heavy rain, meaning children are unable to cross the river to get to school.
Deputy Governor of Viengkham district, Mr Sayphone Chanthoumma, told Vientiane Times the authorities have warned people not to cross the footbridge until further notice because the structure is not sufficiently stable to support weight.
The heavy rain occurred on November 11, causing the Xaeng river to rise. The strong currents saw trees, branches and other debris flowing downstream, some of which lodged on the bridge supports, compromising the structural integrity of the bridge.
Classes at the local school have been suspended temporarily as children are unable to cross the bridge.
Local officials and villagers are pressing for stronger bridges for use by local communities to cross the river, especially schoolchildren, Mr Sayphone said.
Repairs will be easier now that the river level has dropped and it is estimated they will be finished this week, meaning classes can resume as normal.
The temporary footbridge was built to replace the one that collapsed in Vangbay village a few weeks ago. It can carry only 15-20 people at a time and is about 100 metres long and one metre wide.
Mr Sayphone said local communities cooperated well in helping to build the bridge and volunteered to cut down trees to source the wood.
It is expected that it will be used until the next wet season and residents will build a new one every year until more permanent structures can be built. District authorities plan to build a concrete bridge to replace the wooden footbridge that collapsed, Mr Sayphone said. We have submitted plans to provincial authorities and have received authorisation to go ahead with the work but have yet to finalise a start date.
The old bridge collapsed recently, sending 52 people who were on it at the time into the river below.
Two children drowned and the rest had to be rescued from the water.
The bridge was installed in 2013 but was not opened to the public at that time because some aspects of construction were found to be substandard.
After these problems were addressed, the bridge opened for use in 2015, mainly by people living along both sides of the river in Vangbay village.
Source: Vientiane Times