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Mon, Oct 29, 2007 - Page 10 News List

Indonesia to build world's longest suspension bridge

AFP , JAKARTA

Indonesia has brushed aside fears of graft and disaster to pursue plans to build the world's largest suspension bridge -- in one of the most earthquake-prone areas on earth.

The planned Sunda Strait bridge will cross at least 29km between the country's two most populous islands, Java and Sumatra, and pass at its closest point a mere 50km from the still-active Krakatau volcano.

That volcano's famous 1883 eruption killed an estimated 36,000 people, mostly from resulting tsunamis.

The current proposal follows the signing of an agreement between two provinces on opposite sides of the strait at the start of this month and represents the culmination of a 40-year dream of connecting the islands.

The US$10 billion bridge, which is in the "pre-feasibility" study phase, will pass over three smaller islands and include a single uninterrupted span 2.5km.

Professor Wiratman Wangsadinata, whose consultancy is involved in the study, says the planned bridge will be approximately 200km from the "subduction zone" where the Australian and Asian plates come together.

Wangsadinata said that records show the maximum earthquake that can occur in the zone is 8.5 on the Richter scale. He says plans will work on the assumption that no higher earthquake can occur in that area as the biggest recorded in the region was 8.0.

The bridge will be safe, he says, but it will require international help to pull off.

"To tell you frankly, maybe our expertise domestically is not enough to solve all the problems associated with this project. So we are going to invite experts from all over the world to participate, to give advice and also active participation in the study, in the design, and later on in the construction," he said.

It will be a long time before the project can be considered safe -- the pre-feasibility study is scheduled to be completed in 2009 and the feasibility study in 2013 -- but if it does get the green light it will go some way to filling Indonesia's massive infrastructure shortfall.

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