Barge slams into Galveston bridge causing collapse as oil spills into water below

A Texas bridge was struck by a cargo ship on Wednesday morning, bringing traffic to and from a small residential island to a standstill as officials work to determine whether the structure is safe from collapse.

The incident happened around 10am according to the Galveston County Sheriff’s Office. The strike caused a piece of a a railway line attached to the Pelican Island Causeway to fall into the water but the bridge appears to be intact. No injuries have been reported.

A bridge in Galveston Texas was hit by a barge on Wednesday, causing part of an attached railway to collapse (AP)
A bridge in Galveston Texas was hit by a barge on Wednesday, causing part of an attached railway to collapse (AP)

According to the Galveston County Office of Emergency Management, the incident resulted in a vacuum gas oil spill. It’s not known how much of the oil has leaked into the water. Emergency responders are currently cleaning the fluids from the Galveston Channel.

Traffic was initially closed in both directions but has now opened to vehicles trying to get off the island. Vessel traffic in the water is closed.

The Texas Department of Transportation is currently examining structural impact to the bridge. “Galveston County and our partners will continue assessing the situation,” the office of emergency management said. Other agencies, including the US Coast Guard, have been called to the scene.

David Flores, a superintendent with the Galveston County Navigation District overseeing the Pelican Island Causeway, said a pushboat navigating two barges from Texas International Terminals lost control of the ships and hit an electrical line, sparking a fire.

Hightide and strong currents might have factored into the accident, he said, adding that traffic has slowly started to pick back up.

“There’s no way to get off the island except one car at a time,” the superintendent said.

The partially collapsed railway does not present a threat, Mr Flores added, noting that it was never operational. Part of the structure could be seen resting on top of the barge following the incident.

The Pelican Island Causeway is the only way in and out of Pelican Island, which is home to a Texas A&M University at Galveston campus. Taylor Bounds, a spokesperson for the university, said there were 180 students, faculty and staff on campus when the incident occurred.

Shortly after the bridge strike, electricity on the campus went out but was restored quickly.

A report from the Texas Department of Transportation published last year found that the bridge was vulnerable to a potential bridge strike. The department previously said that it had planned to start replacing the structure in the next two years.

In addition to the university, Seawolf Park, a memorial to USS Seawolf, and several maritime industry companies are based on the island, which has a population of about 10,000.