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Hintze Ribeiro bridge collapse

On the night of March 4, 2001, the Hintze Ribeiro disaster occurred when the Hintze Ribeiro Bridge, made of steel and concrete, collapsed in Entre-os-Rios, Castelo de Paiva, Portugal, killing 59 people, including those in a bus and three cars that were attempting to get to the other side of the Douro river.

Fast waters and a storm at the time gave no chance for an immediate rescue, and the victims drowned. Although the site of the accident was more than 30 kilometers (19 mi) away from the sea, the strong river current meant that bodies were found as far away as the north coast of Spain and one even in France.

The bridge was more than 100 years old. Hours after the accident, the then Minister of Transportation Jorge Coelho resigned. The following week, dozens of bridges across Portugal were closed for immediate repair. The tragedy caused widespread shock across the nation, with all television networks broadcasting continuous news bulletins, and many solidarity campaigns being organized to help the victims’ relatives.

The collapse was due to two decades of illegal but allowed sand extraction which compromised the stability of the bridge’s pillars, as well as disregard from the responsible officials despite the warnings of divers and technicians. Later the sand extractors became the only ones indicted for a civil and criminal lawsuit.

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