PHILADELPHIA — An elevated section of Interstate 95 collapsed early Sunday morning in Philadelphia after a tanker carrying petroleum products caught fire, causing a busy section of the main Northeast Freeway south of the East Coast to close indefinitely, authorities said. .
Transportation officials warned of significant delays and street closures and urged drivers to avoid the area in the northeastern corner of the city. Officials said the tanker may have been carrying hundreds of gallons of gasoline. It was reported that the fire is under control.
Video from the scene showed a huge concrete slab falling from I-95 onto the road below. There were no reports of injuries.
Derek Bommer, chief of the Philadelphia Fire Brigade, said the northbound lanes of I-95 were gone and the southbound lanes were “hacked” by the heat of the fire. He added that runoff from the fire or perhaps rupture of gas lines caused underground explosions.
Some sort of accident occurred on an incline below northbound I-95 around 6:15 a.m., said Brad Rudolph, a spokesman for the state Department of Transportation.
Mark Fossetti, a retired Philadelphia police sergeant, said he was driving south toward the city’s airport when he noticed thick black smoke billowing on the interstate. Alors qu’il passait devant le feu, at-il dit, la route en contrebas a commencé à « pente », créant une dépression notable qui était visible dans une vidéo qu’il a prize de la scène, at- he says.
He saw the traffic in the rearview mirror had stopped. Soon after, the highway’s northbound lanes collapsed.
“It was insane timing,” Fossetti said. “For you to bend over and collapse so quickly, it’s really cool. »
The south corridors suffered significant damage, Rudolph said Sunday afternoon, “and we’re assessing that now.”
There was no immediate timeline for reopening the highway, but Rudolph said officials would look at a “temporary situation or structure” to speed up efforts.
Motorists were sent on a 43-mile (69-kilometer) detour, Rudolph said, which is “better than it would be on a weekday.” The fact that the collapse occurred on a Sunday helped ease the congestion.
He predicted that traffic would “significantly return to all bypass areas”.
Most drivers traveling in the I-95 corridor between Delaware and New York use the New Jersey Turnpike instead of the portion of the highway where the accident occurred. Until 2018, drivers had no direct interstate connection between I-95 in Pennsylvania and I-95 in New Jersey. They had to take a few miles of surface roads, with traffic lights, to get from one to the other.
Officials were also concerned about the environmental effects of runoff into the nearby Delaware River.
“Today is going to be a long day. Obviously, with 95 heading north and possibly going south, it’s going to be even longer than that,” said Dominic Mirelles, director of the Office of Emergency Management in Philadelphia.
He said thousands of tons of steel and concrete had accumulated at the site of the fire and heavy construction equipment would be needed to start clearing the rubble.
The fire was strikingly similar to another fire in Philadelphia in March 1996, when an illegal tire depot under I-95 caught fire, melting guardrails and warping the sidewalk.
The highway was closed for several weeks and the partial closure lasted six months. Seven teenagers were charged with arson. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that the owner of the landfill was sentenced to between 7 and 14 years in prison and paid $3 million out of $6.5 million for repairs.
Recently in Atlanta, an elevated section of Interstate 85 collapsed in a fire, shutting down the busy street in the heart of the city in March 2017. A homeless man was tasked with starting the fire, but federal investigators said in a report that the State Department performed the transportation practice in Storing combustible building materials under the highway increases the risk of fires.
– Associated Press writers Mark Scolfo in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and Jake Offenhartz in New York contributed to this report..