The presence of more than 30 manholes on the expressway from Baloch Colony flyover to the Qayyumabad Chowrangi has caused at least two severe road accidents this year and could lead to more road mishaps if authorities continue to look the other way.
In 2010, as many as eight major road accidents were reported at the ‘S’-shaped expressway. At the time, people started believing that the road was under a black magic spell as some invisible force throws the cars from the downward lane — which goes from the Qayyumabad Chowrangi to the Baloch Colony flyover — to the upward lane — which goes in the opposite direction.
Explaining the ‘phenomenon’, Irfan Saleem, accident investigation officer at Road Traffic Injury Research and Prevention Centre, said most accidents at the time occurred during early mornings and late nights. “When drivers negotiated deep curves in high speed, they would lose control over their vehicles which would result in severe accidents,” he said.
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In some cases it was observed that a vehicle from the downward lane swerved on the upward lane which led people to wrongly believe that only an evil spirit could be behind such a physical anomaly, he explained.
The urban myth, according to him, was generated by locals residing in the neighbourhood as the road was very abandoned, at least initially. However, after installation of rumble strips at all the deep turns in 2010, the stories dissipated as no major accident was reported for a while.
There are around 31 manholes on the road out of which 20 are placed in the high speed lane and have some sort of obstruction sticking out. This distracts drivers and becomes the cause of road accidents as drivers try to avoid the stumbling blocks.
Even the rumble strips, Saleem said, have failed to caution drivers to the obstructions [of manholes]. “No vehicle reduces speed over the rumble strips anymore,” he said, fearing that accidents would continue as fast cars would be impeded by the manholes.
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Earlier this year, a public bus, travelling from the Baloch Colony flyover to Qayyumabad Chowrangi, hit a manhole which caused the driver to lose control and the vehicle then struck a signboard in front it, explained Saleem. He said nine passengers, including the driver, were severely injured in the accident and the front portion of the bus was badly damaged.
Another accident occurred in October, 2015 when a grey Honda Civic travelling in the fast lane from Qayyumabad Chowrangi to the Baloch Colony flyover hit a manhole at high speed and then struck the pedestrian bridge in front of Iqra University. Serious injuries of the passengers were reported; along with considerable damage to the vehicle, recalled Saleem.
A way out
The official said they have proposed several solutions to the authorities. A three feet high road shoulder could possibly reduce the rate of accidents, he said, adding that covering manholes with steel caps could also reduce the risk of accidents.
However, according to NED University’s Urban and Infrastructure Department head Dr Mir Shabbar Ali, installation of any physical structure could also be dangerous. He suggested that signs warning of manholes should be placed prominently on the road before each manhole. Regarding the rumble strips, he said the fixtures require maintenance every two years whereas the ones on the road have yet to be refurbished after being installed five years ago.
When Karachi Municipal Corporation’s municipal director Masood Alam was contacted over the matter, he responded by saying that his department was not responsible for circular drains. However, if the manholes in question are rain drains, Alam said he would send a team to check the problem.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 28th, 2015.
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