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Hidden perils posed by markets located beneath bridges in Vietnam

Markets, mostly spontaneous ones, which sit beneath bridges where vehicles speed down slopes, create worrying accident hazards.

Markets, mostly spontaneous ones, which sit beneath bridges where vehicles speed down slopes, create worrying accident hazards.
Markets, mostly spontaneous ones, which sit beneath bridges where vehicles speed down slopes, create worrying accident hazards.

Local architect Le Cong Si shared his concerns about the issue with VnExpress  newspaper.

He cited a fatal traffic accident which occurred earlier this month on the slope of Ba Si Bridge, which spans National Highway 53 in Cang Long District in the Mekong Delta province of Tra Vinh.

The accident, which involved two long-distance coaches, killed four on the spot. Another victim died in hospital later.

According to a preliminary police investigation, the two drivers were trying to overtake each other, resulting in the tragic accident.

One of the two drivers claimed in his testimony that he spotted a person crossing beneath the bridge, causing him to apply the brakes abruptly.

His sudden braking forced the driver of the ensuing coach to veer left to avoid running into the rear of the bus in front, which caused him to crash into the motorbikes driving in the opposite direction.

Architect Si pointed out that though the presence of a street-crossing pedestrian remains unconfirmed, the existence of markets on bridge slopes does pose grave traffic risks.

In March 2011, a large truck which was speeding down the slope of Phung Hiep Bridge, located in Nga Bay Town in the Mekong Delta province of Hau Giang, ran over and killed five people upon impact.

Among the three critically injured victims, one passed away on the way to hospital.

All the casualties and injured were stall owners and buyers at Hiep Thanh Market, which was located on the bridge’s slope.

According to local police, Phung Hiep Bridge had opened to traffic only two months earlier.

The market was relocated sometime following the deadly accident.

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The site of a fatal accident in March 2011 which involved a speeding truck running over and killing six stall owners and buyers at Hiep Thanh Market, which sat on Phung Hiep Bridge’s slope in the Mekong Delta province of Hau Giang.

Architect Si put the traffic hazards down to the formation of perilous junctures between the arteries and sub-roads leading into markets which sit on or adjacent to the bridge inclines, while the traffic flow, particularly cars and trucks, generally speed up while descending the slopes.

Such “bridge-market complexes” are omnipresent along national highways across the country, particularly on those from Ho Chi Minh City to Mekong Delta provinces.

During a coach ride from Ho Chi Minh City to Tra Vinh Province, for instance, passengers will easily notice dozens of such “complexes,” either spontaneous or organized ones, which dot National Highway 53, Si added.

Crisscrossed with canals, the Mekong Delta is home to numerous bridges which span traffic arteries and markets in the proximity, the architect explained.

Apart from traditional floating markets which trade in produce and are retained for tourism purposes, the belief that markets should be positioned near rivers and bridges to facilitate trading as in the old times has become outdated, Si stressed.

Now, goods are transported to markets by different means, he elaborated.

Many peddlers are so tempted by the convenience of selling and buying at such “bridge-market complexes” that they choose to gather and display their wares on bridge inclines at the risk of their own and their clients’ safety.

The sidewalks on a number of bridges in Ho Chi Minh City are also lined with seafood peddlers.

Si urged that while waiting for long-term, radical measures to remedy the situation, temporary approaches should be adopted, including the erection of separation strips or arranging for markets to use sub-roads.