I-85 fire: Section of Atlanta highway collapses

31-03-2017
CNN

Atlanta An elevated section of northbound Interstate 85, a major north-south artery for the Southeast, collapsed Thursday evening in Atlanta after a massive fire, officials said.

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed said the collapse is not related to terrorism.
"We’ve spoken to the special agent in charge of FBI, there is no evidence this is related to terrorism," he said Thursday night.
Reed declined to say what caused the collapse, adding that an investigation is underway. There were no fatalities, he said.
"I think it’s as serious a transportation crisis as we could have," Reed said.
The city is looking at traffic plans from the 1996 Olympics to figure out a way forward, Reed said.

Lanes closed

All five lanes of the highway in each direction were blocked and will be closed for the foreseeable future, officials said.
That prospect sent shudders through metro Atlanta commuters, who already contend with heavy traffic. An estimated 250,000 vehicles drive daily through that stretch of I-85, according to the Georgia Department of Transportation.
Officials scrambled to come up with alternate routes and encouraged riders to use public transit.
Cortez Stafford, a spokesman with the Atlanta Fire Department, said a unit was returning from another fire when it saw heavy smoke coming from under I-85.
"There was a 40-feet or higher wall of fire. Power lines were falling and arcing heavily and falling in the streets," Stafford told CNN.
The elevated span of highway -- a few miles north of downtown -- collapsed about 7 p.m. as crews battling the fire got out of danger. The cause of the fire was not immediately known.
As concrete began falling from under the bridge, firefighters were asked to step back, Stafford said. "Not even two minutes later, the highway fell with a big ’kaboom.’ (It) knocked our guys back."
The section that fell, which appeared to be 75 to 100 feet long, broke at the point of pillar support, a CNN correspondent observed.
In an unusual move, two fire trucks from Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in south Atlanta came to the scene and sprayed foam on the fallen section and flames.
Interstate traffic was stopped and turned around, creating jams that extended 5 miles or more, not long by Atlanta standards, but many drivers were stuck in the area for hours.
Georgia Department of Transportation spokeswoman Natalie Dale told CNN, "Given the collapse on the northbound side, I cannot fathom the southbound will be open anytime soon."
Dale said inspectors were waiting for chance to inspect the freeway. Transportation authorities are trying to put together a traffic plan, a detour plan for commuters.
Interstate traffic was stopped and turned around, creating jams that extended 5 miles or more, not long by Atlanta standards, but many drivers were stuck in the area for hours.
Georgia Department of Transportation spokeswoman Natalie Dale told CNN, "Given the collapse on the northbound side, I cannot fathom the southbound will be open anytime soon."
Dale said inspectors were waiting for chance to inspect the freeway. Transportation authorities are trying to put together a traffic plan, a detour plan for commuters.

Motorists drove through smoke

The fire was still being attended to Thursday night. The crash trucks from the airport would spray foam on the fire and the flames would subside, only to flare up again.
The fire occurred near the city’s busy Piedmont Road and just south of Georgia 400, a major route to and from the northern Atlanta suburbs.
CNN’s Eliott C. McLaughlin was driving north on I-85 during evening rush hour when he saw black smoke rising from underneath the elevated highway.
Cars getting off at an exit for 400 started slowing more quickly than a normal rate and some cars pulled off onto the shoulder.
But many cars on the left side of the five-lane section barreled through the thick black smoke. They disappeared into the darkness as they drove on, he said.

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