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Baptists on standby after bridge collapse

MINNEAPOLIS (BP)–A Southern Baptist disaster relief unit is prepared to assist if called on by recovery workers in Minneapolis after an eight-lane interstate bridge collapsed at the height of rush hour Aug. 1, killing at least four people, injuring 79 and leaving 20-30 missing.

David Sundeen, director of evangelism at the Minnesota Wisconsin Baptist Convention, told Baptist Press the staff was not aware of any church members involved in the tragedy.

“Our disaster relief response unit has been offered,” Sundeen said Aug. 2. “At this point they are in a recovery effort and they’re saying they probably will not need our services. But we’re ready to go just in case.”

On Thursday, many vehicles remained submerged in the Mississippi River, and emergency personnel were working to retrieve victims.

“The recovery involving those vehicles and the people who may be in those vehicles is going to take a long time,” Minneapolis Police Chief Tim Dolan said, according to the Associated Press. “We’re dealing with the Mississippi River. We’re dealing with currents, and we’re going to have to do it slowly and safely.”

Removing cars from the water will involve moving substantial pieces of the fallen bridge, AP said, as cars were trapped under concrete and twisted metal.

News reports were filled with stories of survival relayed by people who couldn’t believe they were alive after what many termed the most terrifying experience of their lives. At an information center set up at a nearby Holiday Inn, relatives waited for word on missing family members.

“I would like to see Southern Baptists praying that our churches and our people there would be able to influence those who are hurting right now,” Sundeen said.

Hennepin County Sheriff Richard Stanek said citizens in the area who want to help can donate blood.

“We are in dire need of blood,” he said.

The arch bridge was built in 1967 and had received a “structurally deficient” rating two years ago. At the time of the collapse, a resurfacing project was underway, and observers have speculated the weight of the cars along with some reported jackhammering caused the catastrophe.

President Bush, in comments delivered from the White House Rose Garden Thursday morning, said he had spoken with the governor of Minnesota and the Minneapolis mayor.

“I told them we would help with rescue efforts, but I also told them how much we are in prayer for those who suffered,” Bush said. “And I thank my fellow citizens for holding up those who are suffering right now in prayer.”
Compiled by Erin Roach.

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