A body was found under the collapsed section of I-95 in Philadelphia
Updated June 12, 2023 at 5:26 PM ET
A body was found Monday under a section of Interstate 95 in Philadelphia that collapsed a day earlier after a gasoline tanker caught fire beneath an overpass, officials said.
The sudden cave-in of part of the busy highway that runs along the East Coast from Florida to Maine created an immediate traffic nightmare for drivers. Roughly 160,000 vehicles pass through that section of the interstate each day.
Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro issued a disaster declaration Monday, saying it would allow the commonwealth to draw down federal funds and rebuild I-95 more quickly.
It was unclear what caused the vehicle fire.
The National Transportation Safety Board, which was investigating the fire and highway collapse, said it would issue a preliminary report in two to three weeks.
The Pennsylvania State Police said the body found in the wreckage was turned over to the Philadelphia Medical Examiner's Office for identification.
The roadway will take months to repair, Shapiro said on Sunday. All of the elevated northbound lanes collapsed, while the southbound lanes were heavily damaged. A similar highway collapse in Atlanta in 2017 took about six weeks to repair.
"I found myself thanking the lord that no motorists who were on I-95 were injured or died. It's just a remarkably devastating sight," Shapiro said.
A photo shared by the city's Office of Emergency Management showed a scorched section of the highway caved in on the road below. Images on local news and social media showed black smoke billowing from the area.
Around 6:30am, PFD responded to a large fire under I-95 near the Cottman Avenue exit in Northeast Philly. PFD placed the fire under control at 7:30am, but there is an ongoing emergency response from dozens of city, state, & fed. agencies as part of I-95 N&S is closed. (1/2) pic.twitter.com/ZOJwuLVjyA— Philadelphia Fire (@PhillyFireDept) June 11, 2023
U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg said the federal government would provide any resources it can to help with the recovery effort and the rebuilding process.
"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," he said.
Officials said there had been no impacts on the city's drinking water supply.
SEPTA, the area's public transit agency, was adding more cars per train to its regional rail lines serving the area, according to general manager Leslie Richards.
"We are all going to need some extra patience in the coming days. Please work with us as we work through this," she said.
The city also posted information online informing drivers about closures and detours in the area of the collapse.
Earlier on Sunday, Philadelphia Fire Department battalion chief Derek Bowmer said explosions heard in the area after the accident were "runoff" from fuel or gas lines that may have been compromised by the fire.
"We have fire coming out of those manholes," he said.
The fire department responded to the call around 6:30 a.m. local time Sunday morning and had the fire contained by 7:30 a.m.
The collapse occurred near the Cottman Avenue exit of I-95 in Northeast Philadelphia.
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