MIAMI, March 15 (Reuters) – Six to 10 people were killed when a newly installed pedestrian bridge spanning several lanes of traffic collapsed at Florida International University on Thursday, U.S. Senator Bill Nelson of Florida told local TV station CBS Miami.
Emergency personnel searched for signs of life amid the wreckage of concrete, twisted metal and that rained from the collapsed structure and crushed vehicles on one of the busiest roads in South Florida.
The Florida Highway Patrol previously said several people were killed but did not release a figure on fatalities.
At least six injured people were taken away from the scene and eight vehicles were trapped in the bride wreckage, Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez said in an interview with CBS Miami.
At one point, police had requested television helicopters to leave the area so rescuers could hear for any sounds of people crying for help from beneath the collapsed structure, the Miami TV station said.
Munilla Construction Management, which installed the bridge, in a statement on Twitter, said the bridge suffered a “catastrophic collapse causing injuries and loss of life.”
Complicating the rescue effort was the uncertainty about the integrity of the bridge, parts of which remained off the ground, much of it inclined, local media reported.
The bridge connects the university with the city of Sweetwater and was installed on Saturday in six hours over the eight-lane highway, according to a story that was posted on the university’s website. It was 174 feet (53 m) long and weighed 950 tons.
The bridge was intended to provide a walkway over southwest Eighth Street, one of the busiest roads in South Florida. An 18-year-old female FIU student from San Diego was killed while trying to cross the street near FIU last August, according to local media reports.
Students at FIU are currently on their spring break vacation, which runs from March 12 to March 17.
Television footage showed firefighters were walking across the flattened wreckage and medics treating injured people. Emergency personnel appeared to be trying to work their way through a hole in the top of the bridge.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said President Donald Trump is aware of the collapse.
“Our brave first responders are working feverishly to save lives,” she said at a news briefing.
Florida Governor Rick Scott will head to the scene later in the day, his office said.
The National Transportation Safety Board said on Twitter that it was sending a team to investigate the bridge collapse.
Munilla Construction Management was founded in 1983 and owned by five brothers, according to its website. In addition to its Florida operations, the company also has divisions in Texas and Panama and employs 500 people.