MINNEAPOLIS – Family and friends prepared for a double funeral on Saturday for a mother and daughter killed in the interstate bridge collapse, even as a grim recovery operation continued in the Mississippi River for five people still missing.
The bodies of Sadiya Sahal, 23, and her 22-month-old daughter Hanah, of St. Paul, were recovered by Navy divers more than a week after the Aug. 1 collapse. Eight people are confirmed dead.
"The family is doing their best to deal with very difficult time," Omar Jamal, a Somali leader acting as spokesman for the Sahals, said in a statement. The family feels "deep gratitude" to divers and others for their search, he added.
Sadiya Sahal, who was five months pregnant, was on her way to pick up a friend who needed a ride to work when the bridge collapsed. The nursing student had moved to the Twin Cities from Somalia in 2000.
Divers worked on Saturday to clear some debris kicked up in the water by a strong, overnight thunderstorm, Hennepin County sheriff's spokeswoman Kathryn Janicek said. She didn't immediately know whether the debris was natural material, such as trees, or bridge wreckage. Navy spokesmen didn't immediately return phone calls.
On Friday, Transportation Secretary Mary Peters pledged $50 million to help Minnesota with its recovery and rebuilding.
Peters stood near a fallen section of the bridge cluttered by wrecked cars as she announced the latest emergency aid. The funds are an advance on $250 million approved by Congress but not yet appropriated.
The money comes on top of $5 million in federal emergency aid pledged right after the Aug. 1 bridge collapse and $5 million to help the public transit system handle the loss of the heavily traveled span.
The secretary later stopped by a bus garage to promise another $5 million for transit. Transit officials have added express bus routes since the collapse and said the federal money will help cover the costs. The Interstate 35W bridge carried 140,000 vehicles a day, making it one of Minnesota's busiest.
The federal money will help pay for dive operations, debris removal, preparation for reconstruction, traffic detours and other costs, Peters said.
Investigators received a still photograph of the bridge taken by someone flying overhead before it fell, National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Mark Rosenker said Thursday. He said that the picture clearly showed where loads and equipment were on the bridge, and that it will help with the analysis of what caused the collapse.
If investigators identify any "glaring safety gap" that might apply to other bridges, they will alert authorities nationwide to prevent a similar tragedy, Rosenker said.
About 100 people were injured in the collapse, but fewer than 10 remained hospitalized through Friday, ranging from serious to good condition.