A portion of Interstate 95 has collapsed in Philadelphia following a large vehicle fire, according to authorities.
Emergency dispatchers received a call for an accident response on the off-ramp of I-95 at 6:22 am on Sunday, Philadelphia Fire Battalion Chief Derek Bowmer said Sunday. When the firefighters arrived on the scene, they found heavy fire from a vehicle underneath the I-95 overpass, Bowmer said.
There is one vehicle trapped underneath the collapsed roadway, Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro said at a news conference with local and state officials on Sunday.
“We are still working to identify any individual or individual who may have been caught in the fire and the collapse,” he said, although he later clarified no one on I-95 at the time was injured in the incident.
“I found myself thanking the Lord that no motorists who were on I-95 were injured or died,” Shapiro said.
The highway is completely collapsed on the northbound lanes, while the southbound lanes are compromised, Bowmer said.
The incident was then upgraded to a hazmat situation, Bowmer said. Crews have extinguished the fire, but there is some runoff from possible fuel or gas lines. The cause of the fire is unknown, a spokesperson for the Department of Homeland Security told ABC News.
The accident occurred between Exit 32 for Academy Road and Exit 30 for Cottman Avenue in the Tacony section of Philadelphia, ABC Philadelphia station WPVI reported.
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All northbound lanes between Exit 25 at Allegheny Avenue and Castor Avenue and Exit 32 at Academy Road and Linden Avenue are currently shut down, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. Southbound lanes between Exit 32 and Exit 30 at Cottman Avenue and Rhawn Street are also closed.
That portion of I-95 is expected to remain shut down for an extended period of time, according to the DHS. The southbound overpass is in critical condition, according to the Pennsylvania DOT.
“With regards to the complete rebuild of I-95 roadway, we expect that to take several number of months,” Shapiro said.
Shapiro said he plans to issue a disaster declaration on Monday morning to “expedite this process” and “immediately draw down federal funds.”
The fire was so big it had overtaken both northbound and southbound lanes on the highway, witness Lisa Taormino, who was commuting southbound on I-95 about 20 minutes before it collapsed, told ABC News.
Video taken by Taormino, and posted to social media, showed flames and smoke billowing from the northbound lane into the southbound.
“It wasn’t until I reached the bridge part that it was starting to be compromised and the structure wasn’t as sound as it should have been,” Taormino said. “There was another car behind me that looked like it was going to back up instead of traveling across the bridge.”
The governor confirmed the northbound side of the interstate “completely collapsed” and the southbound side “is not structurally sound.”
Other videos posted to social media show large plumes of dark smoke hanging over the highway.
There is no information on any injuries or occupants involved in the vehicle fire, Bowmer said.
Multiple agencies are involved in the response to the crash, with some expressing concern regarding the runoff due to the proximity to the Delaware River. Health officials will determine the environmental impact.
Shapiro acknowledged on Sunday that any petroleum product that might have been discharged into water sources was contained using booms. According to NOAA, a boom is a “floating, physical barrier to oil, made of plastic, metal, or other materials, which slows the spread of oil and keeps it contained.”
“There was a very, very slight sheen in the sort of entry area of the waterway,” Shapiro said.
Department of Transportation Pete Buttigieg and Shapiro issued statements saying that they are closely monitoring the accident.
President Joe Biden “has been briefed on the collapse” and the White House is communicating with Shapiro and Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney’s offices, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre tweeted.
The collapse will have “significant impacts” on the city and region until the reconstruction is complete, Buttigieg wrote in a later tweet. An average of 160,000 vehicles drive each day on the section of I-95 that collapsed this morning in Philadelphia, according to a DOT spokesperson.
“This is a major artery for people and goods, and the closure will have significant impacts on the city and region until reconstruction and recovery are complete,” Buttigieg tweeted. “Our department will be there with support throughout the process of I-95 returning to normal.”
“The challenges will be real when it comes to traffic movements in the city,” Pennsylvania’s Secretary of Transportation Mike Carroll said at Sunday’s press conference.
Federal Highway Administrator Shailen Bhatt will travel to Philadelphia on Monday to offer federal support and assistance.
“The I-95 corridor is a vital connection for people and goods traveling along the East Coast, and FHWA has offered support and assistance to state and local officials to help them safely reopen this section of I-95 as quickly as possible,” a spokesperson for the FHA said in a statement.
A team of specialists in motor carrier and hazardous materials safety, highway and technical reconstruction, and emergency response are expected to be on site as well on Monday to begin the on-scene portion of the investigation into the I-95 collapse, according to the National Transportation Safety Board
A preliminary report will be available in two to three weeks, the NTSB said.
ABC News’ Teddy Grant contributed to this report.
I-95 collapse updates: 1 vehicle trapped under the highway, no one injured, governor says originally appeared on abcnews.go.com