Vehicles have been temporarily banned from using the low-level Chilonga Bridge across the Runde River following a spate of drownings as vehicles trying to cross the river have been swept away by floods and submerged in water.
Chilonga Bridge provides the shortest route between Chiredzi Town and Chikombedzi, but it is dangerous to cross when the Runde River is in flood.
Last Saturday a vehicle was swept off the bridge after the driver lost control while trying to cross and two people, thought to be NetOne employees, drowned as a result.
The vehicle was only retrieved on Monday, 2 May, in the afternoon together with the bodies of the two people.
Chiredzi District Civil Protection Unit chair and district development coordinator Lovemore Chisema announced the temporary closure of the bridge on Monday. He said:
We have decided to temporarily close Chilonga Bridge following a spate of drownings caused by vehicles that either fall into the river after drivers lose control while trying to negotiate the low-lying submerged structure or are swept away by floods.
The bridge will only be reopened once it is deemed safe to cross after water levels go down.
Mupapa Bridge is the current viable alternative for those travelling from either Chiredzi to Chikombedzi or vice versa. It’s a longer, but safe route.
The Government recently announced that it had allocated $3.6 billion for the construction of a modern bridge across the Runde River at Chilonga.
However, the construction of the bridge is technically challenging because of the weak soils on the banks of the Runde River at Chilonga.
Meanwhile, in 2022 alone, at least eight people drowned in the Runde River after vehicles carrying them were swept away by floods.