NEW DELHI: The pontoon bridge at Wazirabad was entirely washed away on Thursday night after 40,000 cusecs of water flowed down the river from Haryana, catching the state public works department unawares. A major mishap was avoided as the approach road to the pontoon bridge was quickly cordoned off during peak hour traffic on Thursday around 8pm.

The bridge, which connects Majnu ka Tila with Khajuri Khas, witnesses heavy traffic movement at this time everyday, confirmed officials.

“Due to the prompt action of our field staff, who immediately notified police and traffic officials, traffic movement was stopped towards the approach road. No major damage was done and no one has been injured in the incident. It will take four weeks for the bridge to be rebuilt,” PWD director (works) Deepak Panwar said.

While the agency claimed it was not notified when Haryana irrigation department released the water from Tajewala , the irrigation department told TOI that there is no control point at Tajewala to hold or release water. “Tajewala does not have a mechanism to hold or release water but the release of water is controlled by the upper Yamuna river board. Tajewala is only the last measurement point and this data is always sent to Delhi Jal Board and Delhi’s irrigation department. The water flows down to Delhi much later. We do not send the data to every individual agency in Delhi and that is an internal matter,” Haryana irrigation department secretary KK Jalan said.

Around 35 of the 62 pontoon bridge capsules were washed away in the incident but will be easily recovered, assured officials. “There is only minor damage on the girders. The iron capsules can only be washed down till ITO as there are gates there to prevent them from floating further away. They will be retrieved and the bridge can be rebuilt as it is anyway a temporary structure . Part of the approach road has also been damaged due to the water flow,” said a senior PWD official.

Pontoon bridges are temporary bridges that are usually constructed when required and dismantled otherwise. The Wazirabad pontoon bridge is currently the only functional pontoon bridge in the city and is built every year in November and dismantled by May.

“The bridge is built when the level of water is low and the iron capsules can easily float on the water. The water level is normally never so high in February and there are no such problems. The recent rainfall has resulted in this,” added the official. “There was no warning or we could have dismantled the bridge or at least evacuated the slums in the area.”

However, government sources said PWD officials should have known that the water level would increase following the recent rainfall and are shrugging responsibility by feigning surprise.