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Texas bridge connecting Galveston and Pelican Island reopened after barge collision

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Texas bridge connecting Galveston and Pelican Island reopened after barge collision
News

News

Texas bridge connecting Galveston and Pelican Island reopened after barge collision

2024-05-21 02:32 Last Updated At:02:41

HOUSTON (AP) — A bridge near Galveston, Texas, that was damaged last week when a barge carrying fuel broke free from a tugboat has reopened to vehicle and pedestrian traffic after safety inspections deemed it safe, officials said.

The barge crashed into a pillar supporting the Pelican Island Causeway span on May 15. The impact caused the bridge to partially collapse and cut off the only road connecting Galveston to Pelican Island.

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Crews monitor spill booms at the Pelican Island bridge in Galveston, Texas on Thursday, May 16, 2024, after a barge collided with the bridge Tuesday causing a partial collapse of the bridge and spilling vacuum gas oil into Galveston Bay. (Jennifer Reynolds/The Galveston County Daily News via AP)

HOUSTON (AP) — A bridge near Galveston, Texas, that was damaged last week when a barge carrying fuel broke free from a tugboat has reopened to vehicle and pedestrian traffic after safety inspections deemed it safe, officials said.

Crews monitor spill booms at the Pelican Island bridge in Galveston, Texas on Thursday, May 16, 2024, after a barge collided with the bridge Tuesday causing a partial collapse of the bridge and spilling vacuum gas oil into Galveston Bay. (Jennifer Reynolds/The Galveston County Daily News via AP)

Crews monitor spill booms at the Pelican Island bridge in Galveston, Texas on Thursday, May 16, 2024, after a barge collided with the bridge Tuesday causing a partial collapse of the bridge and spilling vacuum gas oil into Galveston Bay. (Jennifer Reynolds/The Galveston County Daily News via AP)

Debris and railroad tracks from the Pelican Island bridge in Galveston lie atop a barge owned by Martin Marine on Wednesday, May 16, 2024. The barge crashed into the bridge at about 10 a.m. Tuesday closing the only road access to and from the island. The bridge Wednesday was open to car traffic leaving Pelican Island and pedestrian traffic both ways. (Jennifer Reynolds/The Galveston County Daily News via AP)

Debris and railroad tracks from the Pelican Island bridge in Galveston lie atop a barge owned by Martin Marine on Wednesday, May 16, 2024. The barge crashed into the bridge at about 10 a.m. Tuesday closing the only road access to and from the island. The bridge Wednesday was open to car traffic leaving Pelican Island and pedestrian traffic both ways. (Jennifer Reynolds/The Galveston County Daily News via AP)

Spill booms surround a barge at the Pelican Island bridge in Galveston, Texas, Wednesday, May 16, 2024. The barge collided with the bridge Tuesday which caused a partial collapse of the bridge and spilled vacuum gas oil the barge was carrying into Galveston Bay. (Jennifer Reynolds/The Galveston County Daily News via AP)

Spill booms surround a barge at the Pelican Island bridge in Galveston, Texas, Wednesday, May 16, 2024. The barge collided with the bridge Tuesday which caused a partial collapse of the bridge and spilled vacuum gas oil the barge was carrying into Galveston Bay. (Jennifer Reynolds/The Galveston County Daily News via AP)

Spill booms surround a barge at the Pelican Island bridge in Galveston, Texas, Wednesday, May 16, 2024. The barge collided with the bridge Tuesday which caused a partial collapse of the bridge and spilled vacuum gas oil the barge was carrying into Galveston Bay. (Jennifer Reynolds/The Galveston County Daily News via AP)

Spill booms surround a barge at the Pelican Island bridge in Galveston, Texas, Wednesday, May 16, 2024. The barge collided with the bridge Tuesday which caused a partial collapse of the bridge and spilled vacuum gas oil the barge was carrying into Galveston Bay. (Jennifer Reynolds/The Galveston County Daily News via AP)

After a review of the bridge by the Galveston County Navigation District No. 1 and underwater inspectors with the Texas Department of Transportation, the structure was reopened late Saturday night. Officials have set weight limits for vehicles using the bridge.

Early estimates had indicated that up to 2,000 gallons (7,571 liters) of oil spilled into surrounding waters following the collision.

On Sunday, the U.S. Coast Guard updated that figure, saying approximately 20,000 gallons (75,708 liters) of oil were spilled.

After the oil spill, authorities deployed a boom, or barrier, to contain the spill, forcing the temporary closure of about 6.5 miles (10.5 kilometers) of the waterway.

Clean up efforts have ended around Pelican Island. But crews were still removing oil and washing shoreside rocks along Swan Lake, a coastal recess located several miles west of Pelican Island along the Texas Coast.

During the clean-up efforts, crews recovered three dead, oiled birds from around Swan Lake: two brown pelicans and a laughing gull.

Nine other birds that were alive but covered in oil were spotted around Swan Lake, but officials said they were not able to recover them.

“To further protect wildlife, acoustic cannons were placed to provide an audible distraction to shore birds,” the Coast Guard said.

After the barge collision, Texas A&M University at Galveston, which has a campus on Pelican Island, had closed its facility. Fewer than 200 people related to the school were on the island at the time.

The university said the campus resumed normal operations on Monday.

The Coast Guard said the tugboat had lost control of the 321-foot barge “due to a break in the coupling” that had connected the two vessels.

The affected area is miles from the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, which sees frequent barge traffic, and the Houston Ship Channel, a large shipping channel for ocean-going vessels.

The accident came weeks after a cargo ship crashed into a support column of the Francis Key Bridge in Baltimore on March 26, killing six construction workers.

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Crews monitor spill booms at the Pelican Island bridge in Galveston, Texas on Thursday, May 16, 2024, after a barge collided with the bridge Tuesday causing a partial collapse of the bridge and spilling vacuum gas oil into Galveston Bay. (Jennifer Reynolds/The Galveston County Daily News via AP)

Crews monitor spill booms at the Pelican Island bridge in Galveston, Texas on Thursday, May 16, 2024, after a barge collided with the bridge Tuesday causing a partial collapse of the bridge and spilling vacuum gas oil into Galveston Bay. (Jennifer Reynolds/The Galveston County Daily News via AP)

Crews monitor spill booms at the Pelican Island bridge in Galveston, Texas on Thursday, May 16, 2024, after a barge collided with the bridge Tuesday causing a partial collapse of the bridge and spilling vacuum gas oil into Galveston Bay. (Jennifer Reynolds/The Galveston County Daily News via AP)

Crews monitor spill booms at the Pelican Island bridge in Galveston, Texas on Thursday, May 16, 2024, after a barge collided with the bridge Tuesday causing a partial collapse of the bridge and spilling vacuum gas oil into Galveston Bay. (Jennifer Reynolds/The Galveston County Daily News via AP)

Debris and railroad tracks from the Pelican Island bridge in Galveston lie atop a barge owned by Martin Marine on Wednesday, May 16, 2024. The barge crashed into the bridge at about 10 a.m. Tuesday closing the only road access to and from the island. The bridge Wednesday was open to car traffic leaving Pelican Island and pedestrian traffic both ways. (Jennifer Reynolds/The Galveston County Daily News via AP)

Debris and railroad tracks from the Pelican Island bridge in Galveston lie atop a barge owned by Martin Marine on Wednesday, May 16, 2024. The barge crashed into the bridge at about 10 a.m. Tuesday closing the only road access to and from the island. The bridge Wednesday was open to car traffic leaving Pelican Island and pedestrian traffic both ways. (Jennifer Reynolds/The Galveston County Daily News via AP)

Spill booms surround a barge at the Pelican Island bridge in Galveston, Texas, Wednesday, May 16, 2024. The barge collided with the bridge Tuesday which caused a partial collapse of the bridge and spilled vacuum gas oil the barge was carrying into Galveston Bay. (Jennifer Reynolds/The Galveston County Daily News via AP)

Spill booms surround a barge at the Pelican Island bridge in Galveston, Texas, Wednesday, May 16, 2024. The barge collided with the bridge Tuesday which caused a partial collapse of the bridge and spilled vacuum gas oil the barge was carrying into Galveston Bay. (Jennifer Reynolds/The Galveston County Daily News via AP)

Spill booms surround a barge at the Pelican Island bridge in Galveston, Texas, Wednesday, May 16, 2024. The barge collided with the bridge Tuesday which caused a partial collapse of the bridge and spilled vacuum gas oil the barge was carrying into Galveston Bay. (Jennifer Reynolds/The Galveston County Daily News via AP)

Spill booms surround a barge at the Pelican Island bridge in Galveston, Texas, Wednesday, May 16, 2024. The barge collided with the bridge Tuesday which caused a partial collapse of the bridge and spilled vacuum gas oil the barge was carrying into Galveston Bay. (Jennifer Reynolds/The Galveston County Daily News via AP)

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Student protesters vow 'complete shutdown' in Bangladesh as clashes continue

2024-07-18 18:09 Last Updated At:18:10

DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) — Police clashed Thursday with student protesters attempting to impose a “complete shutdown” in Bangladesh’s capital, following days of violent confrontations during demonstrations over a system of allocating government jobs.

Students have been demonstrating for weeks against a quota system for government jobs they say favors allies of the ruling party, but the protests have escalated since violence broke out between protesters, police and pro-government student activists on the campus of Dhaka University on Monday. Six people were killed on Tuesday, leading the government to ask universities across the country to close and police to raid the main opposition party’s headquarters.

As violence continued to take place on Thursday, Bangladesh’s Law Minister Anisul Huq said in the afternoon that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina asked him to sit with the protesters for a dialogue, and he was ready to sit down on Thursday if protesters were willling.

On Wednesday night, the protesters announced they would enforce “a complete shutdown” across the country on Thursday in response to security officials’ continued attacks on the campus demonstrators. The opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party said that it would do what it could to make the shutdown a success.

Clashes continued as protesters attempted to enforce the shutdown Thursday morning. In Dhaka's Uttara neighborhood, hundreds of protesters were chased by police after they blocked the road and chanted. In other places, police fired tear gas and charged with batons disperse the protesters, who threw stones in response. Scores, including police, were injured in the violence, said a spokesperson for the Dhaka Metropolitan Police.

Police said protesters attacked and set fire to a traffic police box and vandalized police vehicles amid clashes across the city.

Traffic was thin on Dhaka's usually clogged streets on Thursday morning, while many malls closed. Offices and banks opened, but commuters complained that transport was limited. Police set up checkpoints at the entrances to Dhaka University.

Local television reported violence in other cities including Chattogram and Khulna, while protesters also blocked some major highways.

Salma Rahman, an official at a financial institution in Dhaka, said that she left her car at home and caught a ride on a motorcycle. “Our office has alerted us to stay safe on streets, as there is fear that violence could happen during the shutdown.”

Protesters are demanding an end to a quota system that reserves up to 30% of government jobs for family members of veterans who fought in Bangladesh’s war of independence in 1971. They argue that the system is discriminatory and benefits supporters of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, whose Awami League party led the independence movement, and they want it replaced with a merit-based system.

Hasina’s government halted the quotas after mass student protests in 2018. But last month, Bangladesh’s High Court nullified that decision and reinstated the quotas after relatives of the 1971 veterans filed petitions, triggering the latest demonstrations. The Supreme Court then suspended the High Court’s ruling and is expected to rule on Aug. 7. The government has also appealed the High Court decision in the wake of the protest, according to the attorney general's office.

Huq said the government was seeking an early hearing.

“I have already asked the attorney general to appeal in the Supreme Court on Sunday seeking early hearing,” he told reporters. The Supreme Court had earlier set Aug. 7 to make decision on the quota issue. Friday and Saturday are parts of the weekend in Bangladesh. The court opens Sunday.

“I am requesting all to wait with patience until the verdict is delivered,” Hasina said in a televised address Wednesday evening. “I believe our students will get justice from the apex court. They will not be disappointed.”

While job opportunities have expanded in Bangladesh’s private sector, many people prefer government jobs because they are stable and well paid. Each year, some 400,000 graduates compete for 3,000 jobs in the civil service exam.

Hasina said there would be a judicial probe into Tuesday's deaths and vowed that those responsible would be brought to justice.

“Some precious lives have been lost unnecessarily,” she said. “I condemn every killing.”

U.N. Human Rights chief Volker Türk said in a post on the social media platform X that all acts of violence and deadly use of force must be investigated and the perpetrators held accountable. Türk said freedom of expression and peaceful assembly are fundamental human rights.

Bangladesh’s ruling party blamed the BNP for the chaos, and Dhaka police raided the party’s headquarters late Tuesday. Detective Chief Harun-or-Rashid said police arrested seven members of the party’s student wing, and said detectives found 100 crude bombs, 500 wooden and bamboo sticks, and five to six bottles of gasoline in the raid.

Ruhul Kabir Rizvi, a senior BNP leader, said the raid was a government attempt to divert attention from the protests.

Students advocating for quota reform in public service held a mock funeral at Dhaka University in memory of those who died during clashes, in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Wednesday, July 17, 2024. (AP Photo/Rajib Dhar)

Students advocating for quota reform in public service held a mock funeral at Dhaka University in memory of those who died during clashes, in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Wednesday, July 17, 2024. (AP Photo/Rajib Dhar)

Police fire tear gas shells and rubber bullets to disperse students shouting slogans in favor of quota system in public service at the university campus, in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Wednesday, July 17, 2024. (AP Photo/Rajib Dhar)

Police fire tear gas shells and rubber bullets to disperse students shouting slogans in favor of quota system in public service at the university campus, in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Wednesday, July 17, 2024. (AP Photo/Rajib Dhar)

Police fire tear gas shells and rubber bullets to disperse students shouting slogans in favor of quota system in public service at the university campus, in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Wednesday, July 17, 2024. (AP Photo/Rajib Dhar)

Police fire tear gas shells and rubber bullets to disperse students shouting slogans in favor of quota system in public service at the university campus, in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Wednesday, July 17, 2024. (AP Photo/Rajib Dhar)

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