Angers Bridge (1850) Angers, France
The Basse-Chaine Bridge, known as the Angers Bridge, collapsed into the River Mayenne, in western France, just after 11.30 a.m. on Tuesday, April 16th, 1850, killing over 200 and injuring many more.
The suspension road bridge, designed by Joseph Chaley, was authorised in 1835 and built between 1836 and 1839. At the time there was quite a fashion for building suspension bridges in France, but following the Angers disaster, the building of such bridges was halted for over 20 years. On that morning the bridge was being used heavily as there was a military camp nearby. A squadron of hussars had barely cleared the bridge, when the head of the 11th battalion appeared on the other side. The Colonel in charge, Simonet, reported afterwards that he shouted a warning to the men to break into sections as they crossed and for the band to cease playing, but a fierce storm was raging and his words were carried away by the wind. He reported that to do so was usual procedure, but no written order was given.
The drummers and some of the band had safely crossed over when, with a terrible crash, the cast iron column on the right bank gave way, crushing those waiting to file onto the bridge. The 102 metre long deck of the bridge then fell, in one piece, into the river taking with it 483 military personnel and 4 civilians - a maid and three children. A plaque erected on the bridge in 1900 commemorates the 223 who died, including the children and their maid.
Repairs had taken place on the bridge the previous year, 1849, as it had been heavily used during the construction of a stone bridge nearby. However, the commission of enquiry formed on April 20th, found that the combination of three factors had caused the disaster - the storm, described at the time as a hurricane, which caused the bridge to sway, the resonating effect of soldiers marching in step and rusted cables. The wire strands of the cables had separated from the concrete moorings, allowing water to penetrate and cause rusting. One cable snapped.
It was not until 1960 that another bridge was built on the site.