New York, Nov 23 (IANS): On the eve of a major US holiday, the fiery explosion of a car on a bridge to Canada has put the two neighbouring nations on high alert and shut down bridges and train services between them.
Two people in the vehicle heading towards Canada were killed in the crash before noon Wednesday on the US side of the Rainbow Bridge that leads to Niagara Falls, the world-famous tourist attraction.
New York Governor Kathy Hochul said that “at this time” there was “no known terrorist connection”.
Soon after the crash, Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told Parliament that the situation was “very serious”.
“We’re taking this extraordinarily seriously,” he said before rushing out of the chamber.
The explosion took place on the eve of Thanksgiving Day amid heightened tensions over the Israel-Hamas war that has spawned high emotions and protests across the two neighbours.
The annual Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City attracts a crowd of about 3 million along its route and the city's Mayor Eric Adams said that "the NYPD (police department) and our team have been closely monitoring the situation".
There will be “increased security at locations across New York City, including entry and egress points into and out of the city”, he said.
All four bridges in the Niagra area were shut down and other crossings were put on “heightened alert status”, the New York State Transportation Department said.
Amtrak, the railway system, announced that it was suspending service from the US to Toronto.
The Niagara Frontier Transportation authority said it was “increasing security system-wide. Cars and passengers coming into the Buffalo and Niagara Falls Airports”.
Hochul said that the explosion so completely demolished the vehicle that only the engine remained.
The persons in the car were a man and a woman and Hochul said that one of them was from the area.
A video from the border checkpoints showed the vehicle flying several feet high in the air.
Hochul likened the video of the crash to something generated by artificial intelligence.
An eyewitness told NBC News: “The car was coming, flying back here, like over 100 miles an hour."
The car went up “like 30-40 feet high” after hitting a barrier and then caught fire, the man said.
ABC News said that according to its sources, the vehicle traveling at a high speed hit a concrete barrier, careened into an area where cars waited for secondary inspection, burst into flames and exploded.
The bridge explosion initially raised fears of a terrorist incident because of the dramatic nature of the crash, the strategic location where it happened and the day.
Local Sheriff John Garcia told CNN, “we didn’t know if it was a terrorist attack or not at the beginning”, but every precaution was taken to ensure the community’s safety. Fox News had reported earlier that according to its sources, the FBI was looking into it as “an attempted terrorist attack”.
ABC News said that according to its sources a suitcase or briefcase was found nearby and investigators treated it as a potential explosive device.
But Hochul said that no explosives were found.