Yukon bridge faces 'imminent collapse'

A 70-year-old bridge in Ross River could collapse at any moment. The situation has stranded some people on the north side of the Pelly River.

People stranded on north side of Pelly River

A 70-year-old bridge in Ross River is in danger of collapsing.

The situation has stranded some people on the north side of the Pelly River.

The bridge sits a few metres above the Pelly River and spans 316 metres across. 

Yukon Department of Community Services spokesperson Ben Yu Schott says engineers examined the bridge this weekend.

The engineers were assessing the cost of repairing the bridge, which had already been chained off and affixed with warning signs. 

"We received an engineering report on the weekend that indicated that the Ross River bridge was in much worse condition than originally anticipated and is in imminent risk of potential collapse. People should not be near the bridge, whether physically walking close to the bridge or on the water at this point," he said.

Despite previous warnings, some local people were still using the bridge. This is because it provides access to homes and hunting grounds on the north side of the river. A ferry provides access but does not navigate year-round. 

After seeing the signs and chains ignored, engineers have removed the stairs at either end to prevent people from using the bridge.

The local ferry has also been shut down. The ferry runs on an underwater cable which cannot easily be moved. Engineers fear that debris from a falling bridge could be dangerous.

Yu Schott says the department is working on a plan to get people safely across the river. The department does not know how many people could be stranded on the north side. 

According to engineers, the bridge is so fragile that strong winds or a heavy snowfall could bring it crashing down.

The bridge was built in the early 1940s by the American army as part of the Canol Road project.     

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