The rift in the road alongside the underpass tunnel measured 30 metres long, one metre wide and 1.5m deep. A smaller section alongside Yaowarat Rd, near the entrance to the Tesco Lotus shopping centre, also subsided.
Traffic police were forced to direct motorists away from the danger zone, with smaller vehicles mainly diverted through Phuket Town. By 3:30am, Phuket City Police warned bus and truck drivers to avoid the area entirely.
Traffic was allowed to resume driving past the underpass tunnel rift this morning, though safety barriers have been placed to keep vehicles away from damaged section of road.
The heavy rains also affected Pra Phuket Kaew Rd, on the west side of the junction, with floodwaters reaching knee deep by 6:30pm. Many motorists were left stranded while big and small vehicles moved slowly through the area amid heavy rain.
Some people in the area waited after 9pm for the rain to stop to leave offices or home.
Phuket Governor Chamroen Tipayapongtada and Phuket Provincial Police Chief Commander Col Teeraphol Thipjaroen inspected the site this morning (Jan 29).
The underpass construction has already suffered a slew of setbacks, resulting in contractor Vivat Construction Co Ltd being granted repeated extended deadlines for completing the project, with the final deadline passing on January 22.
Vivat Construction Co Ltd now faces fines of B2 million a day for failing to complete the project on time.
Heavy criticism resulting in an inspection visit by the Office of the Ombudsman yesterday, just hours before the deluges cracked the surrounding roads. (See story here.)
Vivat Construction Project Engineer Jirawut Thaenkum told The Phuket News that the floods last night presented yet another setback.
“The heavy rains yesterday means we have a lot of water to pump out from the site,” he said. “Water at the site does not naturally drain well, as the flooding has been compounded by water came from the Kathu area and Bang Yai Canal.”
Only last week did excavators at the site run into trouble when they struck the water table while digging the underpass tunnel. (See story here.)
Mr Jirawut told The Phuket News this week that his team knew that they would have to contend with the water table, but added, “We had no idea just how much water would be naturally flowing into it at that point.”
Regardless, Mr Jirawut remained confident that the underpass tunnel itself would be complete by the end of February.
“We have to dig three metres deeper than planned, and we have teams pumping out water day and night, but the project is actually about 85 per cent complete. Despite the delays, which are very stressful, we are confident that the underpass will be open by April,” he said.
Although Vivat Construction Co Ltd is facing a B2 million baht a day fine for failing to complete the project on time, Chalermpon Wongkietkun, the Project Engineer from the Highways Department Phuket office, explained that penalty is contracted to a maximum of B80 million.
“Vivat Construction Co Ltd will be fined B2 million per day for only 40 days, but not more than B80 million in total,” he said.
“If they refuse to pay, then the penalty will be recovered through legal action,” he added.
Yet Mr Jirawut argued that the two previous major setbacks – move power supply lines and underground water mains – had cost the contractor more time than any other delay.
“Let’s be honest, I want the Highways Department to recognise this. We are behind schedule by a year because we spent three months waiting for the electricity supply poles to be moved and another eight months waiting for the water supply pipes to me moved.
“This should be recognised in applying the terms of the contract,” Mr Jirawut said.
Meanwhile, Project Engineer Chalermpon of the Highways Department assured that the delays at the Sam Kong Underpass will in no way affect work on the Chalong Underpass, which Civil Engineering Co Ltd has won the contract to build and commenced installation of the roadside drains last week.
“It’s a separate project entirely, by a different contractor,” he said.
Additional reporting by Tanyaluk Sakoot