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Last Updated: Tuesday, 18 May, 2004, 18:25 GMT 19:25 UK
Bangladeshi PM opens new bridge
By Waliur Rahman
BBC correspondent in Dhaka

The Bangladeshi Prime Minister, Khaleda Zia, has opened the country's second longest road bridge over the River Padma providing a vital transport link.

The bridge, named after mystic singer Lalon Shah, establishes a direct link between the country's south-western and northern regions.

It is seen as major engineering feat, in South Asia and the world.

The 1.8km bridge is second largest in the country, and cost nearly $200m, most of it in loans from Japan.

Missing link

Officials say the bridge over the River Padma opens a new horizon in the communications sector, providing an overland link between the south-west and north.

But the bridge will also help India, Nepal and Bhutan gain access to the Bangladeshi sea port at Mongla.

Crowds in Bangladesh
Without bridges, many people in Bangladesh have to use over-crowded ferries

The only missing transport link, officials say, is a bridge over the River Rupsha near the south-western city of Khulna.

This bridge is under construction and should be ready for traffic by the middle of next year.

Officials say the bridge has the world's longest continuous concrete structure, while its foundations are sunk 91 metres into the riverbed.

Hardly any other bridge in the world has foundations which go this deep.

The bridge also has a shock absorbing unit at each pier, enabling it able to withstand earthquakes measuring up to seven in the Richter scale.

Since the river is one of the mightiest in the world, the engineers installed a balanced cantilever construction method to make it stronger.

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