August 1st, 2007 17:40 EST
Three killed as 50 to 100 cars plunged in the Mississippi River
Video: Live coverage from Fox
The bridge carrying Route 35W and located in Minneapolis, which was under repair, buckled and fell into the river at about 6.10 pm local time (9.10am AEST), local media reported.
CNN reports at least three people were killed. They estimated 50 to 100 cars plunged into the Mississippi River when the bridge collapsed during the evening peak hour rush.
Witnesses said they heard a rumbling sound as the bridge collapsed.
Television pictures showed sections of highway leading to the bridge had also collapsed, in places crushing cars and starting fires and trucks.
One witness said she saw people swimming in the water seeking safety.
Huge chunks of the bridge stuck at odd angles out of the river, in places surrounded by cars half submerged in the water.
A nursing supervisor at Hennepin county medical center interviewed by local WCCO radio said, "We have multiple patients. Some critical, some non-critical," he said. Asked if there were any deaths, he said: "Not that I know of."
The road was carrying bumper to bumper traffic when the 160 metre steel arch bridge collapsed. The bridge, built in 1967, was about 20 metres above the river.
The Minnesota Department of Transportation told local media that 200,000 cars a day use the bridge.
Local media said a school bus taking children back to the city from a field trip was among the vehicles that were involved.
Cars lay crushed and mangled under the bridge, Fox said, quoting eyewitness reports.
At least three sections of the bridge had collapsed into the river and a fourth section was in danger of collapse, reports said.
Photographs taken from an apartment overlooking the bridge in Minneapolis, Minnesota shown on CNN showed a disastrous scene of people crouching on bent and crumpled concrete with parts of the bridge submerged in the brown river, Agence France Presse reported.
Rescue workers scrambled into the river gorge to help people off the huge chunks of concrete roadway as fire and smoke rose from the wreckage, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported.
The 40-year-old bridge was undergoing repairs at the time of the accident, and there were reports that construction workers were using a jackhammer at the time of the collapse, AFP has learned.
Ramon Houge was driving on the bridge when heard a rumbling noise, saw the ground collapse in front of him and watched cars go down into the water.
Traffic was bumper-to-bumper at the time, and he estimated hundreds of people must have been involved.
"It didn't seem like it was real," he told the Star-Tribune.
Those still on solid ground backed up as best they could and he saw kids on a bus with blood on their faces.
Sarah Fahnhorst, who lives in an apartment a block away from the bridge, heard a huge thud and then "the entire building shook. It shook the ground," she told the paper.
The Interstate 35W bridge, which spans between Minneapolis and St Paul, was under construction when it broke into several huge sections, The Associated Press reported.
A large, burning truck and a school bus clung to one slanted slab, while an unknown number of vehicles were submerged.
Some people were stranded on parts of the bridge that were not completely in the water.
Local television stations captured video of injured people being carried up the riverbank. There was no official word on injuries, but dozens of rescue vehicles were there. Divers were also in the water.