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Portion of I-95 in Philadelphia collapses after vehicle engulfed by fire


PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) – A portion of a major U.S. highway collapsed in Philadelphia after a vehicle caught fire underneath it, city officials said on Sunday.

City officials in a statement said preliminary reports indicated that a tanker truck was involved in the blaze. No injuries were reported.

Smoke billowed from the rubble of the collapsed section of the northbound lanes of I-95, the main north-south interstate on the East Coast. Video showed emergency vehicles and workers gathered in the vicinity of the huge chunk of the charred, collapsed overpass. Traffic in both directions of the eight-lane highway was halted due to concerns about the structural integrity of the remaining southbound lanes.

U.S. President Joe Biden was briefed on the collapse and the White House has offered assistance to state and local officials, according to White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said the closure of I-95 will have “significant impacts” on the region and the city of Philadelphia. Buttigieg said on Twitter that he was coordinating with regional leaders for recovery and rebuilding efforts.

This stretch of the I-95 corridor sits in the dense northeast section of Philadelphia and connects the city to its northern suburbs, like Bucks County.

On a Sunday in the summer, it’s routinely used by beach goers coming home from the Jersey Shore. During the week, it’s crowded with commuters and vehicles traveling to Boston, Baltimore and Washington.

Firefighters battled a large fire coming from a vehicle, Philadelphia Fire Battalion Chief Derek Bowmer told reporters.

“We tried to extinguish the fire. …We did upgrade it to a hazmat box because we got reports that it could have been a tanker or something like that,” he said.

Crews will be at work for “a while,” Bowmer added, trying to determine if fuel or gas lines might have been compromised by the accident.

Dominick Mireles, the director of the city’s Office of Emergency Management, said officials were concerned about the accident’s potential impact on the environment due to the proximity to the Delaware River.

“Today is going to be a long day,” he said, adding that recovery efforts are likely to take time.

Officials said travelers should expect delays and encouraged them to plan alternate travel routes for their commute and use public transportation.

(Reporting by Jarrett Renshaw in Philadelphia, Maria Caspani in New York and Njuwa Maina in Washington; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Mark Porter)

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