A fire caused an overpass on one of America’s busiest highways to collapse early Sunday in Philadelphia, authorities said, as reports attribute the cause to a truck catching fire under the bridge.
The collapse disabled four lanes of traffic along an elevated section of heavily trafficked Interstate 95, though no immediate injuries were reported.
“Companies arrived on site and found… heavy fire from a vehicle – we don’t know what type of vehicle it was,” Battalion Derrick Bowmer, of the Philadelphia Fire Department, told a news conference.
BREAKING: Fuel tanker explodes on Philadelphia Highway, causing an entire overpass to collapse. pic.twitter.com/iwRVgxJZ41
— The Spectator Index (@spectatorindex) June 11, 2023
Bowmer added that the situation was considered a hazmat incident but could not confirm reports that the burning vehicle was an oil tanker.
Federal and local law enforcement are searching for the driver, whose whereabouts are unknown, local media reported.
The north-south highway — one of the busiest in the United States, connecting major cities along Maine’s east coast to Florida — remains closed in both directions in the Philadelphia area, officials said.
VIDEO/BREAKING: SkyFOX over the northbound section of I-95 that collapsed in Philadelphia near the Cottman Ave exit. A tanker truck in the underpass under 95 caused the northbound lanes above to collapse and the southbound lane collapsed as well. pic.twitter.com/0aIqreRlzI
— Steve Keeley (@KeeleyFox29) June 11, 2023
Rebuilding the section of the devastated highway could take weeks, authorities said, a nightmare scenario for commuters and road travelers alike at the start of the summer holiday.
“Avoid area. Plan and find alternate travel routes,” the Philadelphia Office of Emergency Management said in a tweet.
U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg said on Twitter that he is “offering any assistance USDOT can provide to assist with recovery and reconstruction.”
Television footage showed flames and billowing smoke billowing from the crumbled section of I-95 in the northeastern city’s Tacony neighborhood, with portions of the elevated roadway falling onto the lanes below.
The city government issued a series of warnings on Twitter about a fire in a tanker truck on the highway, which caught fire under the bridge and apparently caused the collapse, according to local media.
A spokeswoman for the city told AFP a “major fire under I-95” caused the highway to collapse, but did not attribute it to a vehicle. She said the fire has been declared “under control.”
Local media reported that the fire started around 6:20 am (0220 GMT), when traffic is usually light on Sundays.
“I will always be grateful to our emergency responders for the dangerous, life-saving work they do to keep residents and visitors safe,” Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said on Twitter.
The highway’s southbound lanes, while still standing, are “compromised,” Bowmer said. “They got a lot of heat and heavy fire.”
“I-95 will be affected for a long time,” city manager Tumar Alexander said at a news conference, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.
Residents told city media they heard several explosions, which a fire chief told the local NBC station came from underground, caused by water runoff from the truck.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NewsMadura staff and is being published from a syndicated feed.)