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San Ysidro Port of Entry Collapses

Created: 16 September, 2011
Updated: 13 September, 2023
4 min read

    Part of the San Ysidro Border structure collapsed midday on Wednesday leaving 24 people injured and causing damages at the busiest land border crossing in the world.

    The collapse happened around 10:45 am between lanes 1 through 8 while the rest of the structure had no visible damage.

    “It is an extremely rare event that you will see the busiest land border crossing in the world  ever closed like this”, said CBP Chief of Field Operations Cris Maston, “the last time we closed this border entry was over thirty years ago”.

    Street vendors and border crossers alike where astonished by what they saw.

    “There was this loud explosion-like sound” shaved ice seller Miguel Aceves explained, “ It was like thunder hitting very close and then a cloud of dust and sirens”.

    The scaffolding that fell was part of the mega remodeling project hoping to expand border capability from 50 million crossing a year to 85 million by 2040.

    The mainly wood structure collapsed at 10:45 am on Wednesday in lanes 1 trough 8 and while all the other lanes were not directly affected the border came to a halt almost immediately.

    Out of the 24 injured, 11 were hospitalized, one of them reported serious injuries.

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    At that time there was a border wait of about 300 cars per lane, over 8,000 cars total, with an average wait time of an hour to 90 minutes.

    Local Tijuana cops went to the scene and used the Sentri lane as a way to move traffic back to Tijuana, according to International Liaison officer Alejandro Lares.

    “They needed time and space to conduct a thorough inspection, so US authorities asked us to help them move people around” he said, “we are not sure how long this will last but I think it will not be less than 4 hours”.

    Interstate 5 was almost intact, except for the lane closest to the collapsed structure. But border wait time was an issue going North to South and cars waiting to enter Mexico stretched over a 2 mile stretch of the highway.

    805 remained rather calm despite also leading to the border.

    The General Services Administration (GSA) in charge of the project sent a statement explaining all North bound traffic would be processed through Otay Mesa, but with little capacity it was soon flooded by border crossers and had over 2000 pedestrians and 500 cars just in the Sentri lane.

    “Managing the border from both sides was very very critical” Chief Maston explained, “(after aiding victims and securing the border) there is a third part is the resumption of business, we have to be resilient at CBP and maintain our order of operations implement our contingency plan…”

    The contingency plan includes opening the commercial port for visitors after 8pm on weekdays and calling for full staff at Otay and Tecate ports of Entry. Chief Maston hoped to return to business as usual within a week.

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    This is especially critical for Tijuana residents because about 9% of the workforce relies on the border to cross to and from their job, according to recent job statistics.

    Thousands of teachers, students and employees were left “stuck” in Tijuana, without being able to honor their commitments while many others already in their work day in San Diego scrambled to make arrangements to stay the night.

    “I just started a new job” said graphic designer Diana Jimenez, “I can’t afford to miss a day.”

    But she didn’t know what was happening until her workday was over and she headed home, to Tijuana.

    “I didn’t know until I drove down. Now I plan to either cross really late tonight or early morning, I expect at least a 3 hour wait no matter what I do…I just cannot miss work right now.”

    This comes just five days after a major blackout affecting over 5 million people in Southern California, Baja California and Sonora, with estimated losses of over 118 million dollars just for San Diego County.

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