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Baltimore Key Bridge collapse: All we know about the ship crash and victims | Shipping News

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Francis Scott Key Bridge collapses after a container ship smashes into the four-lane span, plunging cars into the river.

The Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore, Maryland, has collapsed after a ship hit one of its support columns, and as many as 20 people have fallen into the water, officials say.

Here is what we know:

What happened in Baltimore and when?

  • About 1:27am (05:27 GMT) on Tuesday, a container ship collided with one of the pillars supporting the Francis Scott Key Bridge in the city on the East Coast of the United States. Cars using the bridge fell into the Patapsco River, and at least seven people are feared to remain in the chilly water.
  • The ship, named the Dali, is 300 metres (984ft) long. The Singapore-registered vessel left Baltimore at 1am (05:00GMT) and was heading for Colombo, Sri Lanka. It was supposed to arrive in Colombo on April 22.
  • According to a report by ABC News, the ship “lost propulsion” as it was leaving port, and its crew notified Maryland officials they had lost control of the vessel. The report cited an unclassified US intelligence report.
  • Local pilots, not the crew, were guiding the ship at the time of the accident, according to Maryland Transportation Secretary Paul Wiedefeld. These pilots are trained to avoid accidents like the one on Tuesday.
  • Authorities said all 22 crew members on the Dali and the two pilots have been accounted for and there were no reports of injuries.
A view of the Dali cargo vessel which crashed into the Francis Scott Key Bridge causing it to collapse in Baltimore
A view of the Dali cargo vessel after it hit a support pillar on the bridge [Julia Nikhinson/Reuters]

Where did it happen?

  • The 2.6km (1.6-mile), four-lane bridge — named after the man who wrote the words of the Star Spangled Banner, the US national anthem — spans the Patapsco River just southeast of central Baltimore.
  • It is a major part of the road network around Baltimore, an industrial city northeast of the US capital, Washington, DC.
  • The bridge carried more than 12 million commercial and passenger vehicles in 2023.
  • Baltimore’s port handles farm and construction machinery, sugar, gypsum and coal as well as imports and exports for major automakers, including Nissan, Toyota, General Motors, Volvo, Jaguar and Land Rover.
  • The bridge collapse “will create significant problems on the US East Coast for US importers and exporters”, said Lars Jensen, a container ship expert.

What do we know about the people on the bridge?

  • It is not clear how many people were on the bridge at the time of the crash. Baltimore officials said at least seven vehicles plunged into the water, but they could not give an exact figure.
  • Kevin Cartwright, the spokesperson for the Baltimore City Fire Department, said “numerous vehicles and possibly a tractor-trailer … went into the river.”
  • “This is a mass-casualty, multiagency event,” he said. “This operation is going to extend for many days.”
  • Two people have been saved from the water so far, Baltimore Fire Department Chief James Wallace said.
  • The water in Baltimore Harbor is about 9 degrees Celsius (48 degrees Fahrenheit), which makes the rescue operations urgent.
  • According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, hypothermia is possible in any water temperature below 21C (70F).
  • According to the University of Minnesota, at water temperatures Baltimore is experiencing, a person can lose “coordinated hand and finger movements in less than 5 minutes, lose consciousness in 30 to 60 minutes, and can likely swim only 7 to 40 minutes before exhaustion and die 1 to 3 hours even with flotation”.

Is it safe now? What is the latest on the ground?

  • Maryland Governor Wes Moore declared a state of emergency. US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said “rescue efforts remain under way and drivers in the Baltimore area should follow local responder guidance on detours and response.”
  • Port traffic was suspended until further notice, Maryland transportation authorities said.
  • More than 40 ships remained inside Baltimore’s port – including small cargo ships, tugboats and pleasure craft – data from the ship-tracking and maritime analytics provider MarineTraffic showed.
  • The Federal Aviation Administration is restricting aircraft from flying over the wreckage of the bridge.
  • Wallace said emergency services are using sonar, drones and infrared technology as a part of their search for people and vehicles who may have fallen into the Patapsco River.
  • “Our sonar has detected the presence of vehicles submerged in the water,” Wallace said at a news conference. “I don’t have a count of that yet.”

What have been the reactions so far?

  • “This is a tragedy that you can never imagine,” Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott said. He said the video of the collapse “looked like something out of an action movie” and asked for people to keep their focus on the rescue efforts and the relatives of anyone missing.
  • “Our hearts go out to the families of those who remain missing as a result of this horrific incident,” the White House said. It also said President Joe Biden’s administration was in touch with the governor of Maryland and mayor of Baltimore to offer any federal assistance they need.
  • The Dali was chartered by the shipping company Maersk at the time of the incident, the Danish company said in a statement.”We are horrified by what has happened in Baltimore, and our thoughts are with all of those affected,” it said.
  • “We are closely following the investigations conducted by authorities, … and we will do our utmost to keep our customers informed,” Maersk said.
  • There are “no indications” the collision of the ship was an intentional act, US Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas wrote on X.

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