Washington bridge collapses

Section of collapsed bridge.
Section of collapsed bridge.

SEATTLE –Part of a road bridge has collapsed into the Skagit River in the north-western US state of Washington.

Vehicles and people were thrown into the water after a section of the Interstate 5 highway collapsed at about 19:00 local time.

State officials said three people were rescued and there were no fatalities.

The four-lane bridge is near Mount Vernon, on the main route between the state’s main city, Seattle, and the Canadian city of Vancouver.

Marcus Deyerin, spokesman for the Northwest Washington Incident Management Team, said three people had been rescued and sent to hospitals in the area.

Two of those rescued were taken to hospital with hypothermia, a spokesman for Skagit County told Reuters.

Dan Sligh, one of those rescued from the water, said the bridge had disappeared in a “big puff of dust”.

“When the dust hit I saw the bridge start to fall. At that point forward momentum just carried us over and as you saw the water approaching it was just one of those [times when] you hold on as tight as you can and I saw just a white flash and cold water,” he said.

“You talk miracles. I don’t know what you want to call it. When you’re sitting down in the water and there’s all that mangled metal and bridge, and you’re looking around kind of pinching yourself and realising you’re lucky to be alive. It’s a pretty amazing day to tell you the truth,” added Sligh.

Images showed a section of the bridge in the river with cars partly submerged. In one image taken shortly after the collapse a person was seen sitting on top of a car.

A rescue operation swung into action with rescue boats searching for people in the river.

Helicopter footage showed divers at the scene with several ambulances waiting on the riverbank. Floodlights were brought in as darkness fell.

One rescue boat left the scene with one person strapped into a stretcher.

The Skagit Valley Herald quoted a driver who said he felt a vibration as he crossed the bridge and looked in his rear-view mirror to see that a section was no longer there.

Traffic was backed up on both sides of the river and crowds of people lined the riverbank to watch the scene unfold. (BBC)

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