Un pont autoroutier au-dessus d'une rivière s'est partiellement rompu jeudi dans l'Etat américain de Washington, provoquant la chute de voitures et de personnes dans l'eau mais sans faire de victimes, a annoncé la police.

Des images spectaculaires à la télévision ont montré la rupture d'une large section du pont, qui enjambe la rivière Skagit au nord de Seattle, et sur lequel passe l'autoroute Interstate 5, l'autoroute inter-Etats la plus à l'ouest des Etats-Unis et important axe routier vers le Canada.

"La bonne nouvelle c'est que personne n'a été tué", a déclare le gouverneur de l'Etat de Washington, Jay Inslee venu sur place, ajoutant que les opérations de recherche et de secours étaient terminées.

"Trois personnes ont été repêchées dans la rivière et transportées à l'hôpital avec des blessures", a-t-il ajouté.

Selon les premières constatations des autorités locales, le pont à quatre voies construit en 1955 s'est effondré jeudi vers 17H00 locales (02H00 GMT vendredi) sur une longueur d'environ 140 mètres. Une voiture, un camion et une remorque sont tombés 40 mètres plus bas dans la rivière.

Une enquête est ouverte, mais il semble que l'effondrement a été causé par un camion à chargement exceptionnel qui avait heurté les structures supérieures du pont juste avant l'effondrement, a déclaré le gouverneur.

Plusieurs témoins ont confirmé cette thèse.

"J'étais à moins de 50 mètres du camion quand il a touché le coté droit du pont", a raconté Dale Ogden sur un chaîne locale, précisant qu'à son avis le camion était d'un gabarit hors norme.

"Il a basculé et s'est incliné d'environ 30 degrés, mais est retombé sur ses roues. Immédiatement après, j'ai vu dans mon rétroviseur le pont s'écrouler", a-t-il précisé.

"Nous recherchons un camion avec un chargement dépassant la hauteur autorisé" pour ce pont, a confirmé Travis Phelps, un porte-parole du département des Transports de l'Etat de Washington.

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