Bush Updated on Bridge Collapse

The Associated Press
Tuesday, August 21, 2007; 9:07 PM

MINNEAPOLIS -- President Bush said Tuesday the federal government will use its power to accelerate Minnesota's recovery from a bridge disaster and flash flooding.

Bush's comments here, after a briefing from federal and state authorities, were meant as a boost of confidence for a state that has dealt with twin crises this summer.

The Interstate 35W bridge collapsed into the Mississippi River nearly three weeks ago, killing at least 13 people and shutting down a major transportation artery. And over the weekend, heavy Midwest storms and flooding killed at least 22, seven of them in Minnesota.

Bush confronted both topics before heading nearby for a Republican fundraiser.

"Our job now is to cut through the bureaucracy, as best as possible, and get the people down here a new bridge," Bush said from the Minneapolis/St. Paul Air Reserve Station.

Bush commended those who have led recovery efforts, including military divers who have searched for bodies. He personally met with about 20 of the divers to thank them.

"The spirit that caused the recovery to be well coordinated is the very same spirit that's going to cause this bridge to get rebuilt," Bush promised.

With the search for bodies over at the site of the interstate bridge collapse, authorities will focus on removing tons of wreckage from the Mississippi River so a replacement bridge can be built over the next year.

Bush on Tuesday declared an emergency exists in the state, freeing up the city and state for more federal aid in their recovery efforts.

On the flooding, Bush said the government would move quickly to process requests for help from Minnesota, so that residents could count on a "flood of help" to come down.

He later attended a fundraiser for Sen. Norm Coleman, a Republican whose seat is considered vulnerable in 2008. The event raised $1.2 million for Coleman and the Minnesota Republican Party.


Associated Press writer Brian Bakst contributed to this report.

(This version CORRECTS to show that 22 died in flooding, seven in Minnesota.)

© 2007 The Associated Press