Mozambique: One of Africa’s longest bridges, 86-year-old Ponte Dona Ana gets a much-needed facelift

Dona Ana bridge.jpg
Dona Ana bridge, which spans the Zambezi River between the village of Nhamayabwe in Tete and Caia in Sofala province, is getting its first facelift in the 86 years since it was built.

The works, which are scheduled over 90 days, started on Tuesday and are budgeted at eight million meticais [around US$135 thousand at current exchange rates], at the expense of Mozambique Railways (CFM) and Electricity of Mozambique (EDM).

Work will consist of replacing the metal sheets of the pavement, replacing profiles at various points, stripping and repainting, and replacing more than 100 street lamps across the bridge.

The Dona Ana bridge was built on the section of the Sena railway line connecting Beira to the village of Moatize, and is approximately 3,700 metres long, of which 565 metres is supported by the Sena viaduct, 2,990 metres is carried on the central bridge and the remaining 265 metres by the viaduct on the Mutarara side.

ALSO READ: Man falls to his death off Dona Ana bridge in Tete

Speaking in Sena at the launch of the project, which will be carried out by EGEC Lda and under CFM supervision, Sofala Governor Maria Helena Taipo said that the project will mark the fulfilment of the Zambezi riverine communities’ hopes, presented last year to the president during his first working visit to the enterprise.

Reports from users suggest that at least five people died and another six were seriously injured this year as a result of the deterioration of the bridge.

Dona Ana bridge_1

With an estimated 3,000 people crossing the bridge every day, the Dona Ana Bridge is a tourist attraction and boosts trade between neighboring communities in the provinces of Sofala, Tete and Zambézia, as well as Malawi’s Nsange district.

CFM-Central Executive Director Augusto Abudo said that the work in progress would facilitate the movement of people and goods and afford greater security especially at night, but he warned users to observe the maximum load established for safety on the bridge, and advised regular cleaning to avoid corrosion of metal parts.

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The Dona Ana Bridge makes the Sena fortress a tourist attraction, mainly for the observation of the Zambezi plain, with the Morrumbala mountain range and the border with Malawi forming the background of a unique panoramic view.

The bridge is 3.67 kilometres long and its construction was completed in 1934. It is said to be Africa’s 5th longest bridge, the 4th longest being Mozambique Island bridge (3.7 km, built in 1969) and the 1st the 6th October bridge in Cairo, Egypt ( 20..5 km long, bult in 1996). The Danyang–Kunshan Grand Bridge in China is considered  the world’s longest bridge. It is 164.8-kilometre long.

A  historic view of the Dona Ana Bridge *

The British South Africa Company had a concession from the Portuguese government to build a railway from Dondo, Mozambique on the main railway line from Beira, Mozambiqueto Rhodesia, and in 1912 the Nyasaland government agreed to give financial assistance to British South Africa Company to build the Central African Railway from Nsanje, the southern terminus of the Shire Highlands Railway 61 miles to the north bank of the Zambezi at Chindio. This line was completed in 1914 and, at first, river steamers went from Chindio to Chinde on the Indian Ocean. This railway of 61 miles from Port Herald to on the north bank of the Zambezi was from where sea-going lighters continued to Beira, Mozambique. It took two to three weeks to move goods from from Blantyre to Beira, involved three transhipments and exposed goods to the risk of water damage.

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In 1922, the Trans-Zambezia Railway Company completed a line from Beira to Murracca on the Zambezi, opposite Chindio, so there was an almost-complete rail link from Blantyre to Beira except for the short river crossing by ferry. This was inconvenient because the capacity of the ferry depended on the river depth. For two months in the dry season, the river was low and wet-season floods often washed parts of the track away. In 1927, the British government commissioned a report on building a Zambezi bridge.

The Hammond Report proposed that a Zambezi bridge be built at Mutarara, 25 miles upriver of Chindio. The cost of the Zambezi Bridge was estimated at £1.06 million. Eliminating the handling at the ferry and increased traffic were expected to pay the annual interest and create a sinking fund to repay the construction loans. The final cost for the Zambezi Bridge was £1.74 million and it never generated sufficient traffic to pay the interest charge, much less repay the loans raised to build it.
Dona Ana bridge_4.jpg

The 3.67 kilometres (2.28 mi) long Dona Ana Bridge was at that time the longest railway bridge in Africa. The bridge comprises 33 spans of 80m and 7 spans of 50m. Built by the Portuguese in 1934 during the Portuguese rule of Mozambique, it was rendered unusable in the 1980s, during the Mozambican Civil War.

The USAID assisted with the repairs and it was converted to a single-lane bridge for vehicle traffic.

Although not located on a primary highway, it provided an alternative route over the Zambezi. The other two options were the bridge at Tete and the former road ferry at Caia which was not always reliable. The Dona Ana Bridge is the longest bridge across the Zambezi and it used to be the last downstream bridge before the construction of the Armando Emilio Guebuza Bridge in 2009.

The bridge was completely closed to vehicular traffic in October 2006 for rehabilitation and re-conversion to a rail bridge and was reopenned as a rail bridge in 2009.

Source; Wikipedia

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Source: Notícias /

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