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Four Dead As Bridge Collapses At Florida International University

By The Nigerian Voice
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At least four people have been killed and 10 others hurt after a footbridge collapsed near Florida International University in Miami, officials say.

Rescuers are spending the night searching for victims trapped beneath the buckled 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?
Miami-Dade Fire Chief Dave Downey confirmed on Thursday night that at least four people were killed.

"This is going to be a long incident. We are going to have rescuers here through the night, if not longer," Chief Downey said.

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

"We're working our way into the pile trying to create holes that we can actually physically see," Miami-Dade Fire Department Division Chief Paul Estopian told reporters.

At least 10 people were treated for injuries at the Kendall Regional Medical Center, including two who were in "extremely critical condition", according to Dr Mark McKenney, director of general surgery.

At one point, 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).

It is still unclear how many people were under the bridge at the time.

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."

Media captionMiami bridge collapse witness: 'This is crazy'

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."

"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".

Skip Twitter post by @realDonaldTrump


Continuing to monitor the heartbreaking bridge collapse at FIU - so tragic. Many brave First Responders rushed in to save lives. Thank you for your courage. Praying this evening for all who are affected. — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 15, 2018

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.

Skip Twitter post by @FIU


First-of-its-kind pedestrian bridge “swings” into place. “FIU is about building bridges and student safety. This project accomplishes our mission beautifully,” -President Mark B. Rosenberg. https://t.co/x8gPM9A4DG #worldsahead pic.twitter.com/mPEMeh2zmw — FIU (@FIU) March 10, 2018

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.