The NZ Transport Agency says flood waters are still preventing structural engineers from inspecting the bridge spanning the Wanganui River near the West Coast community of Harihari and it may be several more days before it is safe to re-open State Highway 6.
Heavy earthmoving equipment from roading contractors and local mining companies are being used to move rocks and gravel and divert the river back in to its original channel to allow engineers to inspect piles driven into the river bed to support the bridge.
“The weather has been so extreme and river levels haven’t dropped as quickly as we thought – that’s holding us up,” says the NZTA’s Senior Asset Manager for the West Coast, Mark Pinner. “We should have a clearer picture tomorrow (Friday) of the situation and the time it will take to re-open the highway. It’s a frustrating time for everyone – but we have to make sure the bridge is safe.”
A 40 metre-long section of the highway’s northern approach to bridge was swept away by a torrent of flood water yesterday (2 January).
“Teams of contractors are working 15 hours while there’s daylight to clear the flood debris and divert the river. Once water levels drop we can get in quickly to inspect the bridge and then start re-building that section of the highway lost in the flood,” Mr Pinner says.
Other state highways in the West Coast region that had been closed by slips and flood waters have re-opened with the exception of SH65 between Murchison and Springs Junction. It remains closed by a slip.
Note: The NZTA plans to issue another update on SH6 late Friday morning.