Road and waterways traffic was disrupted yesterday after a canal ship collided with a bridge over the Brussels-Scheldt canal at Humbeek near Grimbergen. The accident took place at 0930, when the ship, travelling towards Brussels, hit part of the structure of the bascule bridge, forcing the roadway which passes over the bridge to shift several metres on one side.
The damage is “very serious,” according to Kevin Polfliet, spokesperson for De Vlaamse Waterweg, which manages inland waterways in Flanders. The agency is currently evaluating the damage while making preparations for repair work. A priority is to re-establish canal traffic, which consists of hundreds of vessels carrying cargo to and from Brussels every day.
An investigation will also be carried out into how the accident happened. The boat involved was damaged, but crew members were only slightly injured, local police said.
The bridge remains closed to road traffic, and a diversion has been set up – alternative canal crossings are available a short distance away in either direction at Oksdonck or the Verbrande Brug.
According to the commune of Grimbergen, the traffic has been stopped by the sounding of the klaxons and the bridge had started to open to allow passage of the vessel when the collision took place. The cables which raise and lower the bridge sections were broken.
No estimates have yet been offered of how long the bridge will take to repair, but clearing a way for water traffic will be a priority. The bridge will be closed to road traffic until repairs are complete, police said. The whole area is closed to traffic for the time being, and drivers are advised to seek alternative routes.