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Baltimore bridge collision sends vehicles tumbling into water

Nepalkhabar

 |  New York

A US Coast Guard vessel secures the perimeter, after the Dali cargo vessel crashed into the Francis Scott Key Bridge causing it to collapse in Baltimore, Maryland, US, March 26, 2024. (Reuters)

A container ship smashed into a four-lane bridge in the US port of Baltimore in darkness on Tuesday, causing it to collapse and sending cars and people plunging into the river below.

Rescuers pulled out two survivors, one in a "very serious condition," and were searching for more in the Patapsco River after huge spans of the 1.6-mile (2.57 km) Francis Scott Key Bridge crumpled into the water.

The ship "lost propulsion" as it was leaving port, and crew on board notified Maryland officials they had lost control of the vessel, ABC News reported, citing an unclassified US intelligence report.

Baltimore officials said at least seven vehicles plunged into the water but could not give an exact figure.

Kevin Cartwright, the spokesperson for Baltimore City Fire Department, earlier told Reuters that as many as 20 people could be in the river along with "numerous vehicles, and possibly a tractor-trailer or a vehicle as large as a tractor-trailer (that) went into the river."

"This is a mass-casualty, multi-agency event," he said. "This operation is going to extend for many days."

A live video posted on YouTube showed the ship ploughing into the bridge in darkness. The headlights of vehicles could be seen on the bridge as it crashed into the water and the ship caught fire.

Tuesday's disaster may be the worst US bridge collapse since 2007 when the I-35W bridge in Minneapolis collapsed into the Mississippi River, killing 13.

Maryland Governor Wes Moore declared a state of emergency to quickly deploy federal resources to deal with the emergency. The FBI in Baltimore said on X its personnel were "on scene." At a news conference, Baltimore Police Commissioner Richard Worley said there was no indication of terrorism.

Traffic was suspended at the Port of Baltimore until further notice, Maryland transportation authorities said. It is the busiest U.S. port for car shipments, handling more than 750,000 vehicles in 2022, according to port data.

It was not immediately clear if any other vessels had been damaged or whether operations had halted to and from the port, shipping and insurance sources said.

"We received several 911 calls at around 1:30 am, that a vessel struck the Key Bridge in Baltimore, causing the collapse," Cartwright said.

Baltimore police said they had been notified of the incident at 1:35 a.m. ET (535 GMT).

The ship was identified by LSEG ship tracking data as a Singapore-flagged container ship, the Dali. The registered owner of the ship is Grace Ocean Pte Ltd and the manager is Synergy Marine Group, LSEG data show.

Synergy Marine Corp said the Dali collided with one of the pillars of the bridge and that all its crew members, including the two pilots, had been accounted for and there were no reports of any injuries.

The Dali was chartered by shipping company Maersk (MAERSKb.CO), opens new tab 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," Maersk said.

Baltimore port's private and public terminals handled 847,158 autos and light trucks in 2023, the most of any U.S. port. The port also handles farm and construction machinery, sugar, gypsum and coal, according to a Maryland government website.

The port handles imports and exports for major automakers including Nissan, Toyota, General Motors, Volvo, Jaguar Land Rover and the Volkswagen group - including luxury models for Audi, Lamborghini and Bentley.

More than 40 ships remained inside Baltimore port including small cargo ships, tug boats and pleasure craft, data from ship tracking and maritime analytics provider MarineTraffic showed. At least 30 other ships had signaled their destination was Baltimore, the data showed.

The port did not immediately respond to Reuters' request for comment.

The bridge, named after Francis Scott Key, author of the Star Spangled Banner, opened in 1977. (Reuters)

 



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