Minneapolis road bridge collapses, three dead


  • World
  • Thursday, 02 Aug 2007

By Benno Groeneveld

MINNEAPOLIS (Reuters) - A highway bridge collapsed with a thunderous roar, hurling vehicles into the Mississippi River in central Minneapolis during evening rush hour on Wednesday and killing at least three people, officials and media said. 

CNN said that at least three people had been killed. 

A highway bridge in Minneapolis, Minnesota, is shown collapsed over the Mississippi River in a video grab, August 1, 2007. The bridge collapsed with a thunderous roar, hurling vehicles into the Mississippi River in central Minneapolis during evening rush hour on Wednesday and killing at least three people, officials and media said. (REUTERS)

It was not yet known how many people were injured. 

"I can't tell you how many people we've got, they're still coming in," said an official in the emergency department at the Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis. 

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security in Washington said there was no indication of terrorism in the disaster. 

"There is no indication of a nexus to terrorism at this time," department spokesman Russ Knocke said. 

State police said in a statement that the cause of the disaster was not yet known. 

A 150-metre span of the eight-lane steel and concrete bridge, which was under repair, was crowded with commuters when it buckled and fell into the river and onto concrete embankments at about 6:05 p.m. CDT, witnesses reported. 

"I saw them carrying up a body -- I don't know if he was alive or dead," said Andy Schwich, who arrived at the scene on his bicycle a few minutes after the collapse. 

A truck was exploding in fireballs, he said, and there were numerous cars either on the remnants of the bridge or in the river. 

"It was the worst thing I ever saw," Schwich, 29, said. 

CNN quoted emergency services saying as many as 50 to 100 cars were on the bridge when it collapsed. 

Divers were searching the water. 

A freight train was passing under the bridge when it collapsed, and was cut in two, WCCO television reported. 

Witnesses said they heard a rumbling sound as the bridge collapsed into the river. 

"First I heard this huge roar," Leone Carstens, a nearby resident, told the Minneapolis Star Tribune. "I was at my computer. Initially I thought, Wow was that an airplane?" 

Steel pilings stuck out at angles from the riverbed, huge chunks of concrete appeared to be floating in the debris-strewn water, and plumes of smoke rose from the site, a Reuters eyewitness said. 

At least three damaged cars were visible below from behind police lines along the riverbank near the collapsed span, which had stood about 20 metres above the river. 

One witness said she saw people swimming in the water seeking safety and half-submerged vehicles. Injured survivors were led or carried up the embankment. 

The Minnesota Department of Transportation said in a May 2006 report that inspectors saw fatigue cracks and bending of girders that lift the approaching span, according to the local ABC-TV affiliate. 

The agency said 200,000 cars a day use the steel arch bridge, which was built in 1967. 

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