A bridge on Interstate 85 in Atlanta, Georgia, collapsed on Thursday as a fire raged beneath it, authorities said, sending black smoke into the air and briefly causing a fireball before the structure fell in on itself.
There were no immediate reports of casualties in the incident, which snarled traffic for kilometers.
“We are trying to assess the damage and determine how quick we can repair it,” Georgia Governor Nathan Deal told a news conference.
Black smoke billowed so thickly from the bridge in the heart of Atlanta that area residents told local media they thought a storm was coming or that the sun had set early when the fire started at about 6pm.
Then flames rose several stories high from under the bridge before a section collapsed at abour 7:30pm, even as dozens of firefighters fought it, causing a brief fireball.
Hours after the collapse, vehicles were still stuck trying to get off the highway.
Deal declared a state of emergency for Fulton County, which encompasses much of the Atlanta area.
Government offices in Atlanta were set to open at 10am yesterday to give people extra time to get to work.
Deal said the fire that led to the highway collapse appeared to have been fueled by a large pile of PVC piping under the structure. Authorities did not know who owned the piping or who had put it under the bridge, he said.
All lanes of the freeway were blocked and authorities urged motorists to stay away from the interstate in all directions.
“We cannot have any more traffic on the highway,” Atlanta Police Department Sergeant Warren Pickard told a news conference. “We need everyone to stay put and not travel at this time. We need the roads clear for emergency vehicles.”
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