Washington, Jun 11 (EFE).- A bridge on Interstate 95, one of the main highways in the eastern United States, collapsed on Sunday after a large vehicle burst into flames, releasing a huge dark column of smoke and forcing authorities to close the heavily traveled roadway in both directions.
Local television in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where the incident occurred, showed images of the aftermath of the apparent explosion and fire, with the heavy black smoke clearly visible and part of the highway charred and fractured with pieces of internal ironwork melted by the intense heat.
The incident occurred close to Philadelphia and, at present, local authorities believe the fire and bridge collapse had caused no injuries, according to what Philadelphia Fire Chief Derek Bowmer said at a press conference.
Bowmer said that emergency crews from Philadelphia responded to the fire at about 6:30 am and immediately determined that it had originated with a large vehicle that was burning underneath the overpass or bridge.
The northbound lanes of the highway have completely collapsed and the southbound lanes are compromised, Bowmer said.
Initially, local media reported that a cistern tanker truck had caught fire, but authorities have not confirmed that.
Bowmer said that the vehicle fire could have affected gas pipelines running underneath the roadway, causing small secondary explosions and fires around the accident site.
Authorities have urged drivers to avoid using I-95 in that area, and reports are that the roadway will remain closed for an undetermined period.
US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg tweeted that the bridge collapse will have “significant impacts” on the Philadelphia region until reconstruction can be completed.
“This is a major artery for people and goods, and the closure will have significant impacts on the city and region until reconstruction and recovery are complete,” Buttigieg tweeted. “Our department will be there with support throughout the process of I-95 returning to normal.”
Pennsylvania’s Democratic governor, Josh Shapiro, said on Twitter that he had been informed of the incident, adding that he and his staff are coordinating with authorities in the neighboring state of New Jersey and with the federal government to respond to the situation.
The damaged roadway – I-95 – links the main cities along the US East Coast and is used by millions of drivers each day.
The highway, which is 3,096 kilometers (about 1,920 miles) long, runs from Miami up the east coast to the border between the far northeastern state of Maine and the Canadian province of New Brunswick.