The Tadcaster bridge in North Yorkshire has collapsed, with concerns that a nearby gas pipe has ruptured.
The historic bridge collapsed into a swollen river Wharf just before 5pm.
A 200-metre exclusion zone has also been set up around the bridge as authorities inspect a possible gas leak.
People living around the bridge in Tadcaster have been told to evacuate from the area immediately, with the military drafted in to help.
The Environment Agency issued a severe flood warning, with a spokesman saying:
“This severe flood warning has been issued due to the structural failure of Tadcaster Bridge over the River Wharfe in Tadcaster.
“Significant flooding is expected in the Tadcaster area. Those in this area are advised to evacuate immediately.
“The situation is serious and there is a significant risk to life. Please follow the advice of the emergency services and officials in the area.”
— Press Association (@PA) December 29, 2015
The Guardian reports:
In one of the most striking images to emerge from the recent storms and flooding, onlookers watched as a large section of the bridge over the river Wharfe fell on Tuesday evening.
As soldiers were drafted in to help carry out the evacuation from homes, the Environment Agency issued a severe flooding warning due to the structural failure of the bridge and urged those in the area to move immediately.
“The situation is serious and there is a significant risk to life,” the agency said. “Please follow the advice of the emergency services and officials in the area.”
Additional emergency services arrived on the scene shortly after the partial collapse of the bridge before 5pm, which also triggered a gas leak.
North Yorkshire police said homes in the town, which is 10 miles from the city of York, were being evacuated either side of the bridge. Those moved out were being taken to a rest centre at Tadcaster Grammar school.
Onlookers ran as a wave rushed towards the bank and a strong smell of gas came from pipes left visible in the gaping hole. The road had been closed due to fears over the structural safety of the bridge, but a small crowd gathered on Tuesday evening as stone could be heard falling into the water and creaking noises were heard.
Johnny Lyttle, a civil Engineer working on flood risk management projects in Yorkshire and the North East, tweeted that the decision to close the bridge due to structural fears had “almost certainly saved lives”.
Tadcaster has been among several towns in the region hit by flooding in recent days. A large cordon around a section of the main road on each side of the bridge was in place last night as police told local people to leave the area due to fears of a gas leak.