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Tuesday, September 1, 2015

falling off Napier Bridge ~ craze for photos - island bridge !!

In this aerial photo [the original full sized one] – one could zoom and see the bridge over river Coovum ~Singara Chennai.

In the 1980 released Rajnikant starrer ‘Billa’ – the hero, chased by police (DSP Balaji) – escapes in a police car, winds through narrow lanes, hits obstacles, straddles on a horse ….. and nearer marina beach, is shot by Police – jumps into Coovum river from this bridge ……… Arjun in Mudhavan also jumps into the very same coovum …. Cooum River drains into Bay of Bengal after crossing  Napier Bridge……….the estuary is ugly not good enough  to be a called a river. 

Away in New Zealand, matches are played at Napier city that has a sea port, located in Hawke's Bay on the eastern coast of the North Island.About 18 kilometres south of Napier is the inland city of Hastings.These two neighbouring cities are often called "The Twin Cities" or"The Bay Cities" of New Zealand. Napier is about 320 kilometres northeast of the capital city of Wellington. Napier is the nexus of the largest wool centre in the Southern Hemisphere, and it has the primary export seaport for northeastern New Zealand – which is the largest producer of apples, pears, and stone fruit in New Zealand.

Francis Napier, a  colonial administrator, served as a Governor of Madras from 1866 to 1872; he also acted as the Viceroy of India from February to May 1872, temporarily though arising out of the assassination of the Earl Mayo…. and the bridge leading to Fort St. George / War Memorial overlooking island grounds is named in his honour.  Chennaites use this bridge this often,  as it connects the erstwhile British settlements [Fort St George / Parrys] to other southern parts of city of Chennai.  The landmark bridge was built in 1869 and widened to two pronged lanes in 1999. 

A couple of centuries ago, after Governor Thomas Pitt taking over, more villages were added to Madras and that necessitated more bridges.  An Island bridge was projected by Yale in 1690, wasn’t built until 1715, connecting the Fort to the Island, was damaged over and over again and was later removed because there was a diversion of the stream on which it was built.Following this was the Triplicane Bridge, [now Periyar Bridge] connected the island of Triplicane was built.  Napier bridge is equally famous. 

A day after a coracle carrying nine members of a family from Chennai capsized in the swelling waters of the Cauvery river in Hogenakkal in Dharmapuri district, fire and rescue services personnel fished out three more bodies, including that of a woman. On Sunday , while three members, including a six-year-old boy , were rescued, two bodies were pulled out from the river.  By some accounts, people shifting within the parisal for taking ‘selfies’ contributed to the tragedy accentuated by the fact that there has been utter disregard for safety measures by all.

Sadly, the craze for selfies and photos is taking toll and people willingly contribute. Another contributor to accidents is people using mobiles while driving and walking / crossing the roads !

In an unrelated incident, TOI, Chennai edition of date  reports that a 75-year-old woman leaning on a pillar of an arch of Napier bridge for a better view of a family posing for a photograph landed in the Cooum below on Sunday evening. Kanthammal lay struggling in the kneedeep sludge for 30 minutes before police managed to pull her out. The incident occurred around 7pm.  According to the report, the  resident of MKB Nagar was returning home from Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital when she stopped at the MGR memorial on KamarajarSalai (Marina beach road) for a look. Later, as she strolled along the bridge, she saw some members of a family posing for pictures with the Cooum as the background and went closer. When one of the pillars forming the arch hindered her view, she tried to look through the gap between two pillars, lost balance and fell down.

Based on an alert from passersby , a patrol team of Anna Square inspector Jeevanandam, SSI Rajendran and constable Sathaji arrived at the spot. They threw one end of a rope near her and the elderly woman managed to tie it around herself.Then they gently pulled her to the bank and sent her home with some policemen.

Meanwhile, Kanthammal's family members, worried that she had been out for more than three hours, decided to go to the GH when they saw her coming home in auto. The woman visited the hospital once every 15 days to get tablets for her diabetes and heart ailment. She took a bus or train to and from the hospital and always went alone, police found. She had been staying with her son's family for more than a decade.“As we had never seen her taking an auto, we got scared.It was shocking when we saw some police personnel with her,“ said Deepak, Kanthammal's grandson. “She was drenched." 

Kanthammal, who appeared shocked, was reluctant to disclose what had happened as she feared her family members might scold her. But they comforted her and said they were happy she had come home safe.Kanthammal was hard of hearing and had started treatment at a hospital in Purasaiwalkam on Saturday,  her family members said.

Lot to learn from these incidents, but are people listening !!

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

1st Sept. 2015.

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