(Repeats March 30 item for additional readers with no changes
to headline or text)
By Rich McKay
ATLANTA, March 30 A bridge on Interstate 85 in
Atlanta 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 miles (km).
"We are trying to assess the damage and determine how quick
we can repair it," Republican 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 around 6 p.m. local time.
Then flames rose several stories high from under the bridge
before a section collapsed around 7:30 p.m., 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 10 a.m. on
Friday 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, Deal 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."
Local TV images showed bright orange flames and thick black
smoke billowing into the sky above the freeway as a line of cars
stood halted on either side.
Traffic was jammed on nearby roads and freeways as well,
according to online congestion maps.
Television station WSB-TV showed what appeared to be barrels
and coils under the bridge.
The station reported that fire crews from nearby
Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport were brought in
to help and were spraying foam typically used for airplane
crashes onto the flames.
(Additional reporting by Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles; Writing
by Dan Whitcomb and Sharon Bernstein; Editing by Sandra Maler
and Bill Rigby)