PHOTOS: Bridge in south of France collapses, lorry falls with it

Driver airlifted to hospital after stone bridge gives way

The contents of the lorry did not spill into the river. The driver was airlifted to hospital
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A stone bridge in southern France collapsed yesterday (March 18) as a street-sweeping lorry was driving across it.

An arch of the bridge, which crosses the river Luech close to Chamborigaud (Gard) and makes up part of the departmental D906 road, collapsed at around 16:30.

The accident happened when a street sweeper lorry (Balayeuse de voirie) was passing over a section of the bridge which gave way and collapsed, causing the vehicle to plummet around four metres before landing on a bank under the bridge.

The driver, a 40-year old man, was found still conscious by the emergency services and was airlifted to hospital in Nîmes.

Around 20 metres of the bridge collapsed, said Emile Corbier, mayor of the commune.

You can see more photos below on the Facebook page for the Sapeurs-pompiers du Gard, or on this FranceBleuarticle on the bridge collapse.

The section of the road around the bridge is now closed to traffic, emergency services confirmed, and the local mairie is recommending drivers to use an alternative such as the Landeol-Bessèges road.

Firefighters also confirmed the fuel tank and internal storage facilities of the lorry were not damaged, and that neither the river nor local area have been polluted.

Were recent storms responsible?

It is still too early to know the cause of the collapse, but there is a belief that recent storms in the region are partially responsible.

The water levels of the river Luech reached 3.90 metres earlier this month after flash-flooding in the area caused multiple days worth of rainfall in a few hours.

The rainfall from the storms killed seven people in the south of France, many who were swept away in their vehicles when crossing bridges.

Read more: Storm death toll rises in France as hunters find body of man in south

In the photos of the collapsed bridge, it is still possible to see recent watermarks showing the levels the river reached.

However, the Luech has risen by almost twice as much as this previously, making it likely there was already damage to the stone structure.

This is the third bridge in as many years to collapse in the commune of Chamborigaud alone, with dozens more collapsing across the rest of the country.

A report by MPs in 2020 estimated that up to 25,000 bridges in France need restoration works on them, to make them safe for drivers to traverse.

Read more: Major work needed to ensure safety of France's bridges

In 2019, almost 3,000 bridges were classed as being ‘at the end of their life’ by a similar report commissioned after the Morandi motorway disaster in Genoa, Italy killed 43 People.

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