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May 23, 2007 (LBO) – Japan Wednesday gave Sri Lanka a 15-million-dollar loan to re-build a key bridge in the embattled north-western district of Mannar, the Japanese embassy said. The bridge will connect the Mannar islet with the rest of the mainland and also speed up work to resettle thousands of people displaced by the ongoing conflict in the island’s northern and eastern regions.

The loan agreement was signed between Sri Lanka’s treasury chief P B Jayasundera and Kiyoshi Araki, Japan’s ambassador to Colombo.

About 40,000 people living on Mannar island will directly benefit from the project by improving transport and access to markets, the statement said.

The existing bridge and causeway, the only access road from the island to the mainland, were built in the 1930s with a narrow single lane.

The bridge was damaged by a bomb blast in 1990 and replaced by a temporary bridge that cannot support heavy vehicles of over 10 tonnes.

“Movements along the causeway are frequently interrupted during the monsoons due to high tidal waves, affecting smooth transportation as well as traffic