Thursday, April 5, 2007

Penang Bridge Bomb Scare

Thousands of Penangites were caught in a massive evening jam when the Penang Bridge was closed for more than two hours after police received a call that there was a bomb on the bridge.

Many motorists heading towards the bridge after work were caught unaware and found themselves in a traffic bottleneck at the Bayan Lepas coastal road leading to the bridge on the island and Seberang Jaya on the mainland.

The bridge was closed to traffic at 4.30pm and only reopened at 7pm.

Traffic had to be diverted to the ferry terminals on both the island and Butterworth, causing George Town and Butterworth town to be choked with cars and motorcycles.

Hundreds of motorcyclists lining up at the ferry terminal in Penang after the Penang Bridge (inset) was closed following a bomb hoax on Wednesday. The bridge was closed for more than two hours, but the streets of George Town and Butterworth were choked with vehicles as road users turned to the ferry service. The bridge reopened only at 7pm after a bomb squad declared it safe. - K.T. GOH and CHRIS LIM / The Star
Just hours earlier, a 10-wheel truck had broken down on the bridge before the middle span, causing a traffic crawl that stretched almost 15km to the Juru interchange near Auto City. The truck’s rear wheels had jammed and it took mechanics nearly five hours to get the vehicle moving again.

Around the same time the truck was removed, police at the state contingent headquarters operations room received a call saying that there was a bomb on the bridge.

George Town OCPD Asst Comm Azam Abd Hamid said police then alerted Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon and he gave the green light for the police to close the bridge.

“A six-man bomb squad was sent to the bridge immediately. They found a 0.3m-long, 10cm-diameter steel pipe,” ACP Azman later told a press conference at the Northern Region marine police base.

Rare sight: The mid-span of Penang Bridge completely free of traffic. The bridge was closed for more than two hours after police received a call that there was a bomb.
The pipe, he said, was found wedged in the divider at the 3.9km point of the bridge on the Butterworth-bound side.

“It was suspected that the steel pipe contained explosives. Not taking any risk, the squad detonated it at 6.45pm at the site,” said ACP Azam.

He added that police had earlier informed RTM to announce on air that the bridge would be closed. Messages were later flashed on the electronic signboards advising motorists to use the ferry instead.

Arrangements were also made with the Penang Port authorities to increase the number of ferries to cater to the large number of vehicles heading for the ferry terminals.

Tempers flared on both ends of the bridge as traffic came to a standstill. Irate motorists voiced their frustrations after being stranded for nearly two hours.

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