Footbridge collapses in Miami, leaving 'multiple victims'

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Miami (AFP)

A newly installed pedestrian bridge over a major road in Miami on a college campus collapsed Thursday, trapping at least eight cars below and leaving "multiple victims," local officials said.

The walkway, which connected Florida International University to a student housing area, had only been installed less than a week before.

Florida Senator Bill Nelson told Fox News the death toll stood at between six and 10, but officials in Miami-Dade County gave no formal tally.

Emergency personnel were in "full search-and-rescue mode," said the county's deputy mayor, Maurice Kemp.

Multiple vehicles swarmed the area, and television footage showed a crane being moved into position where the bridge lay in sections across Southwest Eighth Street.

"This is such a horrifying tragedy," said Senator Marco Rubio, who periodically teaches classes at FIU.

"The road under the collapsed bridge is heavily used by so many people in #Miami."

Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Division Chief Paul Estopinan said at least eight cars were trapped when the 950-ton concrete bridge -- only installed on Saturday, ahead if its planned opening in 2019 -- suddenly gave way.

At least 10 people were taken to an area hospital -- two of them in critical condition, according to Mark McKenney at the Kendall Regional Medical Center.

Isabella Carrasco, who said she arrived on the scene just after the collapse, told CNN that some cars were "completely crushed," and there was "just a lot of debris everywhere."

She said she saw one woman get out of a car that was "just nicked" and rescue personnel performing life-saving CPR on another person in the street.

- 'Whole thing broke' -

Another shaken driver, Lynnell Collins, told CNN he was about to make a right turn when "the whole thing really just came down."

"After the whole thing broke, I was freaking out. I got out of my car and me and a few other people were sprinting over there. We started helping people whose cars were at least half crushed and whoever was easily saved."

He said he saw two trucks that were "completely crushed."

"We are shocked and saddened about the tragic events unfolding at the FIU-Sweetwater pedestrian bridge," Florida International University said in a statement.

"At this time we are still involved in rescue efforts and gathering information."

A team of experts from the National Transportation Safety Board was en route to the scene to investigate.

FIU had only recently been celebrating the installation of the bridge, which crossed a dangerous, heavily traveled section of highway that students said had been the scene of accidents.

It had been erected using an accelerated modular building method that enabled it to go up in the space of a day.

"We are stunned by today's tragic collapse of a pedestrian bridge," said FIGG Engineering Group, one of the partners involved in the walkway's construction.

"We will fully cooperate with every appropriate authority in reviewing what happened and why," the firm said in a statement.

"In our 40-year history, nothing like this has ever happened before."

At the White House, Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said President Donald Trump was aware of the accident and will offer "whatever support is needed."

Bridge collapses in the United States are infrequent despite rising risks associated with aging infrastructure.

The deadliest this century was the 2007 collapse of an eight-lane bridge in Minneapolis, Minnesota, which killed 13 people.