Thursday, August 02, 2007

US bridge collapse kills 9, injures 64

A bridge has collapsed in Minneapolis, Minnesota in the US killing at least 7 people according to CNN. Federal authorities say that the collapse was not due to terrorism but the event has nonetheless shocked a nation and posed many questions over the structural integrity of America’s other bridges. Only yesterday a partial collapse on a bridge in Orville, California, injured one lorry driver. In Oakland, California a section of the Bay Bridge collapsed back in April this year. That incident was blamed on a truck which crashed and burst into flames and melting structural supports. In 2002 in Webber Falls, Oklahoma, a barge crashed into a bridge crossing the Arkansas River. Fourteen were killed in that incident. In 1983, three died when a section of a bridge crossing the Mianus River, in Connecticut, collapsed. According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, in a report released in 2003, up to 160,000 bridges across America were “structurally deficient” and “functionally obsolete”. According to the report it would take an annual spending of $10 billion for the next twenty years to bring these structures up to standard.

CNN International was today broadcasting domestic news coverage and was showing exclusive footage taken from a security camera which captured the actual collapse as it happened. At least 60 people are said to be injured and a further 20 are missing.

The I38 interstate bridge collapsed suddenly and without warning, however there are questions as to whether there were structural problems with the bridge which spans a distance of 140 metres. Besides having passed inspections in recent years the bridge, which was built in 1967, was undergoing engineering work at the time of the collapse with only 4 of the 8 lanes open to traffic. Around 50 vehicles plummeted into the water when, after a creaking sound, the roadway gave way at 18:00 local time. Witnesses described the centre of the 8 lane bridge collapsing into the river below. Many had a lucky escape even as their cars plummeted 20 metres into the river, some escaping through their sun-roofs. Around 60 school children were rescued after their bus, returning from a swimming trip, was caught up in the disaster. It became wedged precariously at an angle on one of the collapsed sections.

Besides the tragedy, in terms of loss of life and injury, the collapse will have a significant economic impact as well as creating transport chaos in the local vicinity. The bridge carries more than 200,000 vehicles per day, traffic that will have to be rerouted. The collapse also severed a major railway line and also blocks a much used water way.

Meanwhile, the search for victims will continue at first light after being called off at midnight.

No comments: