At least six dead in Florida university bridge collapse

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Police announced the deaths after rescuers spent the night searching for victims trapped beneath the structure.

The 862-tonne, 174ft (53m) bridge fell over an eight-lane motorway on Thursday afternoon, crushing at least eight vehicles, police said.

The bridge was erected on Saturday in just six hours.

It was built using a method called “accelerated bridge construction” to avoid traffic disruption. A major section of the bridge was assembled on the side of the road and then raised into place.

What is the latest on the victims?

Announcing the deaths early on Friday, Miami-Dade police spokesman Alvaro Zabaleta said the operation was now moving from rescue to recovery. Workers at the site were having to take extreme care because of the possibility of finding more victims and for their own safety.

At one point during the operation, police ordered TV helicopters to leave the area so rescue teams could hear for any sounds of people calling for help under the wreckage, CBS Miami television reported.

FIU students are currently on their spring break until 17 March.

What have eyewitnesses said?

They told local media that vehicles were stopped at a traffic light when the structure collapsed at about 13:30 local time (17:30 GMT).

Media captionFlorida officials: We found eight trapped cars and multiple fatalities

One witness told ABC News that the screams coming from the cars were “terrifying”.

“As soon as I looked outside, I saw dust flying everywhere,” Tiona Page said. “I knew the bridge had collapsed.”

Another witness, Damany Reed, told CBS News: “I heard a big kaboom… it sounded continuous. We look outside… we thought something had fallen but it was the bridge that collapsed. It was just surreal at that moment and pretty scary.”

Media captionMiami bridge collapse witness: ‘This is crazy’

“I saw there were multiple cars crushed under the bridge. It was just terrible,” Jacob Miller, an FIU student, was quoted as saying by the Associated Press.

How have US officials reacted?

President Donald Trump tweeted on Thursday night he was monitoring “the heartbreaking bridge collapse”.

Florida Governor Rick Scott and Senator Marco Rubio were at the scene on Thursday night, along with a team of specialists from the National Transportation Safety Board.

“There will clearly be an investigation to find out exactly what happened and why this happened,” Gov Scott said.

“But the most important thing we can do right now is pray for the individuals that ended up in the hospital for their full recovery. Pray for the family members that have lost loved ones,” he said.

“Just last week we were celebrating the expanse being completed and now we are here dealing with a tragedy,” Sweetwater Mayor Orlando Lopez said.

Why was the bridge needed over the motorway?

The span connected the college to a student housing area in the city of Sweetwater.

It had long been requested by students and staff at the university so they could avoid the traffic below, according to the Miami Herald.

In August 2017, a student was hit and killed by cars while crossing the busy road.

Munilla Construction company (MCM), a family-owned contractor that helped build the bridge, tweeted “thoughts and prayers” for those affected by the tragedy.

FIGG Engineering said it also was behind the bridge project. Both firms said they would co-operate with investigators.

The university had touted the new swinging span on Twitter just days ago.

Costing $14.2m (£12.5m), the cable-supported footbridge was funded by the US Department of Transportation.

According to a brochure on the university website, it was designed to withstand a Category Five hurricane and last 100 years.

It was also the first bridge in the world to be constructed entirely of self-cleaning concrete, it said.

It was to be publicly opened in 2019, according to local media.