April 6, 2019 / 8:23 PM / 14 days ago

UPDATE 1-Brazil bridge collapse could affect grain shipments in north

(Adds comments from governor, details of incident)

SAO PAULO, April 6 (Reuters) - Part of a bridge over the Moju River in Brazil's Para state collapsed early on Saturday, potentially affecting shipment of grains such as soybeans and corn through northern ports, local authorities and an agribusiness consultant said.

The bridge fell after it was hit by a boat, Governor Helder Barbalho said on Twitter, where he also posted videos of a large section of the bridge in the water. He said this was not the first time such an accident had occurred.

According to the official Agência Brasil news agency, two vehicles were crossing the bridge at the time of the collision.

"At the moment, our priority is searching for victims and giving complete support to their families," Barbalho was quoted as saying in a statement from Para's state news agency.

According to rescue workers, no crew or documents from the boat that collided against the bridge were found on the scene. The number of casualties was unclear.

Kory Melby, an agribusiness consultant based in the city of Goiania, said the bridge was on the main route connecting Brazil's farm country to its northern ports.

"It will probably take years for that bridge to be rebuilt," he said by telephone.

The consultant noted the bridge was located some 50 kilometers (31 miles) from Belém, capital of Pará state, where three major grain loaders operate, including Archer Daniels Midland Co, Bunge Ltd and Hidrovias do Brasil SA.

The companies did not immediately reply to requests for comment.

Melby said barge traffic would not be affected on the Tocantins and Amazon rivers, which use river ports including Vila do Conde and Barcarena. Some 10 to 20 percent of the soy grown in Brazil's center west is delivered by road at those ports, he said.

Willians Ribeiro, a supervisor at Vila do Conde, told Reuters road traffic to that port would be affected but there were alternative routes.

Shipping statistics show some 5.7 million tonnes of soybeans and 3 million tonnes of corn were unloaded in 2018 in the region, a volume likely to increase due to port expansions, according to the consultant. (Reporting by Alberto Alerigi; Additional reporting and writing by Ana Mano; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Rosalba O'Brien)

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