Barrier tape at the site of the Espoo footbridge accident

Espoo (Finland) (AFP) - Some 27 young people, mostly children, were injured in Finland on Thursday when a temporary footbridge near a construction site collapsed and they fell several metres onto a road, officials said.

The accident occurred at around 9:20 am (0620 GMT) in Espoo, near the capital, Helsinki, when wooden planks are believed to have given way and the group fell five to six metres (feet) onto the carriageway of the small side road.

Most of the injured were eighth-year pupils aged around 14 or 15, who were on a school field trip, city officials said. Their teacher was among the injured.

Twenty-four people were taken to various hospitals in the Helsinki region.

“No one has life-threatening injuries,” Helsinki hospital service HUS said, adding that the majority had limb fractures.

“There has been no indication of any risk of paralysis but there are some head injuries involved as well,” HUS medical director Eero Hirvensalo told reporters.

Photos from the scene showed the sides of the footbridge largely intact but a gaping hole across half of it and a pile of wooden planks in a jumble under one end.

Rescue workers could be seen treating multiple people lying injured on the road shortly after the accident.

- Cause unknown -

The cause of the collapse has not been confirmed and is being investigated, the Espoo city authorities said.

“I saw the bridge was no longer up and many people (were) on the ground,” Jaakko Markkula, who lives on the fifth floor of a building near where the accident took place, told AFP.

The head of the Helsinki city education department, Satu Jarvenkallas, told AFP the injured were pupils from the Kalasatama comprehensive school in the capital.

“They were on a normal field trip to the Emma Art Museum. And then the accident took place,” she said.

A crisis team has been set up at the school, she added.

The city of Espoo said weekly inspections had been conducted on the structure, most recently on May 5.

The contractor whose company built the bridge, Jarno Tuuri, told the Iltalehti daily “nothing out of the usual was observed” during the weekly checks.

“The situation is of course very bad. We’re now checking all the structures and making the necessary additional reinforcements,” he said.

“We’re assisting the authorities in every way we can,” he added.

The director of Espoo city services, Jukka Makela, expressed his “regrets” to the injured, adding: “This simply should not happen.”

“Shocking news from Espoo. Our strength to those injured in the accident and their loved ones. You are in our thoughts,” Prime Minister Sanna Marin said on Twitter.