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S. Korea bridge collapses; 48 killed

At least 48 people were killed and more were feared dead this morning after a bridge in central Seoul collapsed during rush hour.

The central span of the four-lane Songsu bridge plunged 50 feet into the Han River, taking with it cars, vans and at least one fully loaded bus. Some of the vehicles fell into the water; others remained on the fallen 150-foot section of the bridge, which did not sink.

"I saw a bus plunge headlong into the river after a section of the bridge in front of me collapsed," said commuter Hong Byung Tae, who managed to stop his car before reaching the gap in the steel-framed bridge.

"Suddenly the bridge collapsed and I saw cars, a bus and a van go down into the river," said Park Chong Woo, another witness. "It took 30 minutes for rescue vehicles to arrive."

Other witnesses said some of the cars that fell into the river were swept away because it was flowing rapidly.

The Songsu bridge, opened 15 years ago, is 1,160 yards long. It is one of 15 across the Han River that are normally packed with traffic during rush hour.

Military helicopters and divers were ordered to the scene to help the police, but rescue operations were hampered by chaotic traffic in the area.

Boats, divers and helicopters rescued about 30 survivors.

Investigators were checking on repair work done the night before, KBS Television said, adding that the weight limit of the bridge, 18 tons, was regularly exceeded.

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