Lower water levels have helped divers

By: The Associated Press
By: The Associated Press

Search crews in Minneapolis have gotten encouragement from a number of sources today.

Authorities now say no more than eight people are missing from Wednesday's bridge collapse, rather than the 30 that had been feared. Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek says one person who had been unaccounted for turned up safe at work. The confirmed death toll is five.

Divers have again been battling swirling currents and murky waters of the Mississippi River as they carefully pick through the wreckage. But their work was made a little easier when the Army Corps of Engineers managed to lower the water level around the site by about two feet.

Nevertheless, Minneapolis Fire Chief Jim Clack says with all the debris in the water, it remains treacherous and the recovery operation will likely take several days.

Stanek describes the scene as a "terrible mess," adding that authorities still don't know how many cars were on the bridge when it collapsed or how many people were inside them. But he says things are going "better than expected."

Authorities are also reviewing the safety record of the eight-lane I-35W bridge, which was determined to be "structurally deficient" as early as 1990. Some experts are pointing to the presence of heavy construction equipment being used for repairs as a possible factor in the collapse.

The First Lady Laura Bush has arrived in the Twin Cities, for a visit with some of the people affected by the bridge collapse.

She is praising the rescuers who were the first on the scene after a Mississippi River bridge collapsed in Minneapolis on Wednesday.

Visiting the scene this morning, the first lady said there are "so many good stories" about the response. She said it "lifts people and it really encourages people."

President Bush plans to travel to the scene of the deadly bridge collapse tomorrow.

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