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4 dead after bridge collapses onto traffic near Florida university campus

Click to play video: 'Miami officials say at least 4 dead found after Florida bridge collapse' Miami officials say at least 4 dead found after Florida bridge collapse
WATCH: Miami officials say at least 4 dead found after Florida bridge collapse – Mar 15, 2018

UPDATE: As of Friday morning, police say at least six people are dead after the Florida bridge collapsed. 

Four people are confirmed dead after a pedestrian bridge, which was installed just days ago, collapsed on a busy road next to a university campus in Florida.

Miami-Dade County Fire Chief Dave Downey said four people were found dead and nine rushed to hospital after the collapse, which caused several vehicles to be crushed by the falling slabs.

Search-and-rescue crews drilled holes into the debris and used dogs to look for survivors. They had to work carefully because part of the structure was still unsafe.

WATCH: Bridge collapses at Florida International University

Click to play video: 'Multiple fatalities confirmed after bridge collapses at Florida International University' Multiple fatalities confirmed after bridge collapses at Florida International University
Multiple fatalities confirmed after bridge collapses at Florida International University – Mar 15, 2018

Live shots from the scene showed cars trapped beneath the rubble, with firefighters climbing on the wreckage and paramedics treating individuals on the road.

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Witnesses told local media the vehicles were stopped at a traffic light when the bridge collapsed, and authorities said there still may be more vehicles trapped underneath.

READ MORE: Florida bridge in fatal collapse was touted as an engineering marvel

Emergency personnel with sniffer dogs searched for signs of life amid the wreckage of concrete slabs and twisted metal after the bridge crushed vehicles on one of the busiest roads in South Florida.

Complicating the rescue effort was the uncertainty about the integrity of the bridge, parts of which remained off the ground, much of it inclined, local media reported.

Emergency crews look for victims at the scene of a collapsed pedestrian bridge at Florida International University. WTVJ-NBCMiami.com via Reuters

Miami police warned people to avoid the area.

The 950-tonne bridge was installed Saturday for the Florida International University (FIU), and was meant to be used as a pedestrian walkway, the Miami Herald reported.

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WATCH: Reporter describes chaotic scene at Florida International University

Click to play video: 'Reporter describes chaotic scene at Florida International University following bridge collapse' Reporter describes chaotic scene at Florida International University following bridge collapse
Reporter describes chaotic scene at Florida International University following bridge collapse – Mar 15, 2018

Student Aura Martinez was having lunch in a nearby restaurant with her mother when a waitress told her the bridge had collapsed. She ran outside and helped pull a woman out of her car, most of which was flattened by the bridge.

“Her car, it was literally a miracle of God, her car got squished by the bridge from the back, so she was able to get out and she was on the floor and it was just very traumatic,” she told the local CBS affiliate.

WATCH: NTSB launching full investigation into Florida bridge collapse

Click to play video: 'NTSB launching full investigation into Florida bridge collapse' NTSB launching full investigation into Florida bridge collapse
NTSB launching full investigation into Florida bridge collapse – Mar 15, 2018

The US$14.2 million bridge crossed over a busy seven-lane road that divided FIU’s campus from the city of Sweetwater.

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The university issued a statement on Twitter, saying it was “shocked and saddened about the tragic events unfolding” at the scene.

The school added that it’s working closely with officials, and will provide updates as they become available.

The university had boasted about the bridge on Twitter earlier this month, calling it the “first-of-its-kind.” It said the bridge was constructed elsewhere, then “swings” into place.

“FIU is about building bridges and student safety. This project accomplishes our mission beautifully,” Mark B. Rosenberg, the university’s president, said five days before the collapse.

The bridge was intended to increase the safety of students who regularly crossed the busy street to get to campus. In August 2017, a university student was killed crossing the road.

First responders are seen as a pedestrian bridge stretching across a street on the Florida International University campus in Miami collapsed on March 15. AP photo

FIGG Bridge Engineers, the firm which designed the bridge, issued a statement on the collapse, writing: “We are stunned by today’s tragic collapse of a pedestrian bridge that was under construction over Southwest Eighth Street in Miami. Our deepest sympathies are with all those affected by this accident.”

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The firm added that “nothing like this” has happened in its 40-year history.

WATCH: Florida Senator Bill Nelson reacts to bridge collapse at FIU

Click to play video: 'Florida Senator Bill Nelson reacts to bridge collapse at FIU' Florida Senator Bill Nelson reacts to bridge collapse at FIU
Florida Senator Bill Nelson reacts to bridge collapse at FIU – Mar 15, 2018

MCM, the Miami-based construction management firm who won the bridge contract, released its own statement saying it intends to conduct an investigation to determine what went wrong.

— With files from Reuters, The Associated Press

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