Cracks appear again in Saigon River tunnel

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Cracks in the roof of the Saigon River Tunnel fixed with chemical fillings.

The leaking scandal around Vietnam's famous Saigon River Tunnel has resurfaced with a city traffic works official admitting he is having new cracks in the tunnel fixed.

Luong Minh Phuc, chief manager of Ho Chi Minh City urban traffic works, said the new cracks through which water has seeped, appeared after the tunnel opened to traffic in November 2011.

It was then lauded as the longest such construction in Southeast Asia at 1.49 kilometers.

A Wednesday report by news website Dan Tri said several cracks were as long as two meters.

Phuc said the new cracks were spotted by members of Japanese consultant firm Oriental on the inside of the tunnel roof. These are different from those fixed earlier, he said.

Work on the tunnel was delayed when cracks were found in June 2008 at sections under construction at a site in Dong Nai Province just outside the city. They were fixed by early 2010.

Phuc said the water leak through the new cracks has been light and under control.

"The Japanese constructor Obayashi is containing the leak during regular maintenance work. The work is expected to finish this August," he said.

The consultant has suggested drilling holes around the cracks and filling them with substance that will fill up the cracks and any empty space nearby.

A Vietnamese construction expert who wished to remain anonymous said this measure cannot eliminate all the water that has leaked into the tunnel concrete. But it is the best solution for the situation, given that the tunnel is 20-27 meters underwater.

After the repair work is finished, the spots will be checked regularly and their condition will be reported to the government, Phuc said.

Without early intervention, the water will damage the concrete cover and rust the iron frames, shortening the tunnel's operational life, experts said. Australia consultancy company Connell Wagner, which repaired the previous leaks, said the tunnel could be used for 100 years.

The tunnel, previously known as Thu Thiem, is a main part of the East West Highway that runs 21.89 kilometers through many city's districts. Its construction took seven years and US$762 million in official development assistance funds from the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA).

It comprises four sections which were built in Dong Nai and completed in September 2010. Each section was 92 meters long and weighed more than 27,000 tons.

The project likely involved the biggest relocation in the city, with 6,744 households and 368 government and business agencies displaced.

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