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Colombia may need almost $500 million to fix bridges in critical condition

BOGOTA (Reuters) - Colombia will need to spend up to 2 trillion pesos ($487 million) to repair around 580 bridges that are in critical condition, investment that would leave the country with a significant deficit, Transport Minister William Camargo said.

The warning comes at a time when swathes of Colombia's eastern region, vital for agricultural production, have been cut off due to damage to roads and a bridge collapse. That has led to protests from communities concerned that food prices may rise as a result.

The 580 bridges in critical condition represent almost a third of the 1,900 managed by the National Roads Institute (INVIAS).

"These 580 bridges initially demand investment that INVIAS estimates to be between 1.8 (trillion) and 2 trillion pesos," Camargo told the congressional economic commission late on Tuesday, adding that the spending was necessary to avoid further collapses that might affect transportation across the country.

Landslides are frequent in Colombia, due to heavy rains and the mountainous nature of the country's Andean regions.

Repairing so many bridges would require an extraordinary allocation of resources and leaves the government facing a significant deficit, Camargo added.

($1 = 4,110.08 Colombian pesos)

(Reporting by Nelson Bocanegra; Writing by Oliver Griffin; Editing by Conor Humphries)