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Bridge in Pittsburgh collapses hours before scheduled Biden visit to talk infrastructure


A two-lane snow-covered bridge collapsed in Pittsburgh early Friday (Friday night AEDT), prompting rescuers to rappel nearly 46 metres while others formed a human chain to help rescue multiple people from a dangling bus.
The collapse came hours before US President Joe Biden was set to visit the city on a pre-planned trip to press for his $1 trillion infrastructure bill, which includes bridge maintenance.

There were minor injuries from the collapse but no fatalities, said authorities, who also said they were flying drones to make sure no one is under any collapsed sections.

Bridge collapse Pittsburgh, US January 28, 2022
A two-lane snow-covered bridge collapsed in Pittsburgh early Friday (Friday night AEDT), prompting rescuers to rappel nearly 46 metres while others formed a human chain to help rescue multiple people from a dangling bus (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Fire Chief Darryl Jones said there had been 10 “minor injuries” and three people were transported from the scene. None of the injuries were life-threatening, he said. Three or four vehicles were on the bridge when it fell, Jones said.

Sam Wasserman, a spokesperson for Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey, said a few hours after the collapse that officials were evaluating the scene and an urban search-and-rescue team was still combing the area for any other possible victims.

He said most of the 10 people who were evaluated for injuries were first responders checked for exhaustion or because of the cold and snowy weather. Three people were taken to hospitals and none had critical injuries, Wasserman said.

Bridge collapse Pittsburgh, US January 28, 2022
A Port Authority bus that was on a bridge when it collapsed Friday Jan. 28, 2002, is visible in Pittsburghs East End. When the bridge collapsed, rescuers rappeled nearly 150 feet while others formed a human chain to help rescue multiple people from the dangling bus. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar) (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Wasserman said the two-part, elongated Port Authority bus was on the bridge when it collapsed, with a driver and at least one passenger who were both evaluated by emergency medical responders.

A strong smell of natural gas has been reported in the area, police said, later adding that a gas line had been cut in the area.

At the site of the collapse, Lt. Gov. John Fetterman called it “just an awful, surreal scene.”

Bridge collapse Pittsburgh, US January 28, 2022
Vehicles that were on a bridge when it collapsed are visible, Friday Jan. 28, 2002, in Pittsburghs East End. When the bridge collapsed, rescuers rappeled nearly 150 feet while others formed a human chain to help rescue multiple people from the dangling bus. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar) (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

“I hope it’s a wake-up call to the nation that we need to make these infrastructure investments,” Fetterman said.

The scene was reminiscent of the aftermath of an earthquake. There was a large crack on the end where the bus was, he said. There was also a car upside down in front of the bus.

The Red Cross has been contacted to assist victims, and residents are asked to avoid the area.

Bridge collapse Pittsburgh, US January 28, 2022
The collapse came hours before US President Joe Biden was set to visit the city on a pre-planned trip to press for his $1 trillion infrastructure bill, which includes bridge maintenance (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

The Allegheny County Police Department was notified about a partial bridge collapse sometime after 6am on Friday (10pm AEDT), according to Amie Downs, a spokesperson for the county.

Four vehicles were on the bridge at the time of the collapse, Downs said, and only minor injuries had been reported, among them the driver of an articulated bus and two passengers.

Jeremy Habowski told CNN he feels lucky to be alive after surviving the collapse. He and other drivers were unable to stop in time after the bridge gave way, he said.

Bridge collapse Pittsburgh, US January 28, 2022
There were minor injuries from the collapse but no fatalities, said authorities, who also said they were flying drones to make sure no one is under any collapsed sections (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

“The scariest part was definitely going over the edge because there was a gap and my car left the ground,” he told CNN. His car and others are now sitting on top of what remains of the bridge.

Once things settled, Habowski checked on another driver, he said. Then he climbed up the hill to try and stop other drivers from driving into the debris.

“It was a lot to take in,” he told CNN.

A commuter bus sits upright on a section of a collapsed bridge in Pittsburgh, on Friday, Jan. 28, 2022.
A commuter bus sits upright on a section of a collapsed bridge in Pittsburgh, on Friday, Jan. 28, 2022. Police reported the span, on Forbes Avenue over Fern Hollow Creek in Frick Park, came down around 6 a.m. There were no initial reports of injuries, Pittsburgh Public Safety said on Twitter. (Greg Barnhisel via AP) (Greg Barnhisel via AP)

Greg Barnhisel lives about a quarter-mile from where the bridge collapse, so he and his wife went to see it on foot, he told CNN.

“We didn’t hear it collapse,” he said. “When we got to the site of the collapse, the roaring sound and the smell of the broken gas line were overwhelming.”

Another nearby resident, Wendy Stroh, told CNN affiliate KDKA that she heard the collapse, but thought it sounded like “a huge snow plow pushing along a raw tarmac surface with no snow.”
A commuter bus sits upright on a section of a collapsed bridge in Pittsburgh, on Friday, Jan. 28, 2022.
Schools were on a two-hour delay for weather, which reduced traffic over the bridge at that hour (Greg Barnhisel via AP)

“It’s very frightening,” she said. “My goodness, all these ambulances and fire trucks and what not. Just the thought of the bridge collapsing is a very scary prospect. I cross that bridge all the time.”

“Thankfully, schools were on a two-hour delay for weather,” Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman told CNN’s New Day.

“So the traffic was less than it would have been normally on a normal day, but it’s surreal to see this bridge.”

A commuter bus sits upright on a section of a collapsed bridge in Pittsburgh, on Friday, Jan. 28, 2022.
Biden is aware of the collapse, the White House said in a statement, and plans to proceed with his trip. (Greg Barnhisel via AP)

Asked about the collapse coming the same day of the President’s visit, Fetterman, a Democrat, said, “This is a horrible way to underscore just how critical our infrastructure needs are in this country.”

Biden is aware of the collapse, the White House said in a statement, and plans to proceed with his trip.

“The President is grateful to the first responders who rushed to assist the drivers who were on the bridge at the time,” the statement reads.

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