Minneapolis Holds Prayer Service for Bridge Victims

Minneapolis commuters were facing new traffic patterns Monday in the aftermath of last week's bridge disaster, a day after a thousand people gathered for a memorial service to pray for the dead and missing.

Since the Interstate 35 West bridge collapsed Wednesday, traffic patterns have been reconfigured and a state highway converted into a temporary freeway to help prevent major bottlenecks.

The timing of traffic signals has been changed, new turn lanes created and buses added.

"If you can find alternative routes of course, if you can carpool, if you can telecommute ... that would be appreciated," said Bob McFarlin, assistant to the commissioner of the Minnesota Dept. of Transportation.

McFarlin talked with reporters yesterday about contingency traffic plans and about the massive clean up effort that will soon get under way.

The death toll stood at five Monday, with eight people still missing, as officials continued the recovery efforts.

Crews are expected to spend most of this week moving in heavy equipment, including several cranes and four barges. They will start by moving out the rubble and abandoned cars.

But Minnesota officials have emphasized that the task is still a rescue and recovery mission.

"The first phase of the debris removal is slow. It is going to be very deliberate and it is going to be very respectful of the task that still lies ahead in finding those who are missing," McFarlin said.

As the recovery effort moves forward, so does the investigation into what caused the bridge to buckle. Investigators said they plan to fly around the disaster site in a helicopter equipped with a high-resolution camera, and they will use sophisticated computer models to re-create the bridge collapse in hopes of discovering how it happened.

Meanwhile, Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek has called the federal government for help in the underwater search effort. An FBI search and underwater recovery team is on its way to Minneapolis.

Stanek has also asked for help from the Navy. So far, the effort has concentrated on using sonar cameras.

"Cameras (are) a lot safer than using a diver at this point," Stanek said. "If we find something, we'll send a diver in if it's safe, or we'll have to wait until the debris removal takes place."

On Sunday, more than a thousand people gathered for an interfaith service at St. Mark's Episcopal cathedral in Minneapolis.

The memorial started with a candlelit procession, then Gov. Tim Pawlenty gave the opening remarks.

"It takes a lot of faith to live in a world where tragedy, accidents, illness and injustice do their worst to the people we love," he said.

"We're here to affirm in prayer our hope in comfort for the grieving, health for the injured and repair and recovery for our city and state," Pawlenty said.

"We come in tears, in grief, in fear, with uncertainty about the structures around us," said the Rev. Peg Chemberlin, executive director of the Minnesota Council of Churches.

"As we seek someone to blame or something to blame, let us together tonight commit ourselves to a time of profound patience. For full accountability, for the restoration of the public trust, patience for the healing, patience in the waiting," he said.

With additional reporting from The Associated Press

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

Support comes from: