Several killed in Miami after pedestrian bridge collapses over highway | News | DW | 15.03.2018
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Several killed in Miami after pedestrian bridge collapses over highway

A pedestrian bridge has collapsed atop an eight-lane highway in Miami, crushing cars and people beneath. Authorities have said at least four people were killed in the accident.

A pedestrian bridge in Miami collapsed on Thursday, leaving six people dead, according to Florida authorities. Video footage showed that at least five cars had been crushed underneath the bridge.

First responders scrambled to rescue several people thought to be trapped under the collapsed pedestrian bridge connecting the Florida International University (FIU) campus to Sweetwater, known for its student residences.

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But by early Friday morning, authorities efforts "turned from a rescue to a recovery operation," said Miami-Dade Police Detective Alvaro Zabaleta.

Robert Sumwalt, who heads the National Transportation Safety Board, said a team of specialists will begin investigating the incident Friday morning.

'Why this happened'

Florida Senator Marco Rubio of the Republican Party said the engineering firm working on the project had ordered that the cables suspending the bridge be tightened after they had loosened.

"They were being tightened when it collapsed today," Rubio said in a tweet. He said a "larger team of investigators" was on the way to the scene, noting that "an investigation will reveal how and why this terrible tragedy happened."

Speaking at the scene, Florida Governor Rick Scott said investigator will determine "why this happened and what happened," adding that if wrongdoing is involved, authorities "will hold them accountable."

Collapsed bridge in Miami (picture-alliance/Zuma Press/Miami Herald/Roberto Koltun)

Emergency services are combing through the rubble to rescue those trapped beneath the collapsed bridge

Construction firm goes offline

According to the Miami Herald newspaper, the 950-ton span had only been completed on Saturday using an accelerated modular building method that allowed it to go up in the space of just a day. However, it was not yet open to the public. 

The bridge, erected at a cost of some $14.2 million (€11.5 million), crossed over a highway and connected the university campus and the city of Sweetwater.

The "accelerated bridge construction" method was supposed to reduce risks to workers and pedestrians while minimizing traffic disruption, the university said when it unveiled the bridge over the weekend.

Read more: Opinion: Let's be critical about infrastructure

The university raised the need to install a bridge over the busy southwest Eighth Street after a student was killed trying to cross the road last August.

'Cooperate with investigators'

MCM, the Miami-based construction management firm that was commissioned to build the bridge, on Friday described the incident as a "terrible tragedy." The firm said it was "a family business and we are all devastated and doing everything we can to assist. We will conduct a full investigation to determine exactly what went wrong and will cooperate with investigators on scene in every way."

Juan Perez, Miami-Dade County police director, said that the immediate focus was to rescue people but that "our homicide bureau will take the lead" afterwards.

FIU is the second-largest university in Florida with some 55,000 students. Most of its students were away on spring break vacation when the incident happened.

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ls,dm/ng (AP, AFP, Reuters)

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