Military Helps Recovery Effort in Minnesota Bridge Collapse
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Aug. 6, 2007 Navy divers will aid in recovery efforts at the site of the Aug. 1 bridge collapse in Minneapolis, Defense Department officials said today.
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates approved a request from Transportation Secretary Mary Peters over the weekend, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said today.
The westbound Interstate 35 bridge over the Mississippi River collapsed Aug. 1 during the evening rush hour. Five people are known dead, with 98 injured. Minneapolis officials said 24 of those injured remain in critical condition. Officials said eight more people remain unaccounted for in the collapse.
Navy divers will help state and local divers examine wreckage and clear debris. The divers will come from Mobile Dive and Salvage Unit 2, based in Little Creek, Va. The unit has sent a five-man assessment team to the city to work with state and local officials.
Whitman said U.S. Northern Command has a coordinating officer at the site to assess requests from state, local and national officials for Defense Department aid. Northern Command coordinates assistance to civilian authorities in such emergencies.
Swirling currents and low visibility make for treacherous conditions for divers, state officials said. In addition, steel rebar and concrete from the bridge itself can hook hoses or trap divers.
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers officials are working with officials to aid the search-and-recovery effort. Corps engineers lowered the level of the Mississippi River two feet to lessen the current at the site, officials said.
National Guard personnel working under state orders also are providing support and expertise at the site, defense officials said.