Bush Surveys Bridge; Debris Suspends Search

Shifting debris forced divers in Minnesota to suspend their search Saturday for victims of the Interstate 35 bridge collapse. President Bush visited the site Saturday to offer words of support to Minneapolis, and to pledge his help in cutting through bureaucracy to rebuild the bridge.

The search and recovery operation has been slow and methodical. Divers have been helped by a drought that has put the Mississippi River's water level much lower than normal. But they still must battle swirling underwater currents and tons of steel and concrete debris as they feel their way around submerged cars in a grim search for remains.

The Hennepin County sheriff's office says that divers were pulled from the water so crews can remove chunks of debris that get in their way.

"You can hear bridge structure wavering, moving, creaking — not a pleasant sound," said Sheriff Rich Stanek, who noted that shifting debris remains a dangerous obstacle.

The steel-arch-truss design of the bridge helped reduce the number of fatalities. Structural engineers say the steel that supports the bridge was built underneath it instead of above it, as in more traditional bridge designs. Engineers say that kept steel from falling down and crushing cars.

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