Baltimore bridge collapse: Six feared missing, search and rescue ongoing

Baltimore bridge collapse: Six feared missing, search and rescue ongoing
Baltimore bridge collapse: Six feared missing, search and rescue ongoing

Hello and welcome to the details of Baltimore bridge collapse: Six feared missing, search and rescue ongoing and now with the details

Nevin Al Sukari - Sana'a - Part of the steel frame of the Francis Scott Key Bridge sits on top of the container ship Dali after the bridge collapsed in Baltimore. — AFP pic

BALTIMORE, March 27 — A major bridge collapsed in Baltimore yesterday, blocking one of the busiest US commercial harbours, after a heavily laden cargo ship lost power and smashed into a support column despite desperate attempts to stop in time.

Six people — all members of a night time construction crew repairing potholes on the Francis Scott Key Bridge — were missing and feared dead, according to officials and media reports.

Maryland Governor Wes Moore said Tuesday afternoon the scene was “still very much an active search and rescue mission,” nearly 15 hours after the 1.30am (1.30pm Malaysian time) disaster.

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“There’s not a single resource that we will hold off on deploying,” he told reporters.

Moore said that quick thinking by authorities once the ship issued a Mayday call allowed them to stop vehicles from driving onto the bridge.

“These people are heroes. They saved lives last night,” he said.

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Video footage showed the packed container ship slam into one of the bridge’s supports, with the 1977-built steel structure seeming to then collapse like a deck of cards.

The six missing construction workers were presumed dead as of yesterday evening, an executive vice president of the construction company that was carrying out the work told the Baltimore Sun.

“It’s a terrible, terrible, unforeseen tragedy,” Jeffrey Pritzker of Brawner Builders said. “None of us could have imagined this could happen. We are all kind of shocked and distressed.”

The FBI and other agencies stressed that there was no known connection to terrorism.

“The preliminary investigation points to an accident,” Moore said.

The governor, a rising star in the Democratic party, also said there was no indication that the bridge was structurally at fault, noting that it “was actually fully up to code.”

“The crew that was out there working was basically repairing potholes, just so you understand that had nothing to do with a structural issue at all,” Paul Wiedefeld, the Maryland transportation chief, said.

President Joe Biden called the collapse a “terrible accident,” and pledged to get the port reopened and the bridge rebuilt.

Attempt to drop anchors

As the sun rose over Baltimore, twisted steel girders could be seen draped over the deck of the ship that was jammed under the debris of the bridge.

Local teacher Tiffany Wengert said she came down to the “unsettling” scene along the waterfront “to see what’s not here anymore.”

“This is something we’ve been looking at our whole lives,” the 30-year-old said.

“And all of the sudden... it’s just gone.”

Details emerged on how the crew tried to avert disaster after their ship lost power and began careening toward the bridge.

“Just prior to the incident, the vessel, Dali, had experienced momentary loss of propulsion. As a result, it was unable to maintain the desired heading and collided,” said the maritime authority for Singapore, where the Dali is flagged.

This authority said the ship’s management company, Synergy Marine Pte Ltd, reported the crew “dropped anchors” in a last-ditch attempt to hold the ship back.

Federal investigators expect recordings from the vessel to be critical to help determine what happened, said Jennifer Homendy, head of the National Transportation Safety Board, which is overseeing the investigation.

Homendy said it was too early to comment on many key questions in the incident, emphasising that the focus right now is on search and rescue.

The Francis Scott Key Bridge, named after the poet who penned the lyrics to the US national anthem, is an important link in the East Coast highway system, used by about 34,000 vehicles every day.

There are other bridges and tunnels for drivers to cross the harbour. However, the tangled steel barrier now lying half-submerged across the harbour entrance blocks almost all maritime traffic.

The Port of Baltimore is the ninth-busiest major US port in terms of both foreign cargo handled and foreign cargo value, and is directly responsible for more than 15,000 jobs, supporting almost 140,000 more.

“There is no question that this will be a major and protracted impact to supply chains,” US Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg warned, adding it was “too soon” to know when the port might reopen.

Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott described the bridge as an “unthinkable tragedy... like something out of an action movie.”

“We have to be thinking about the families and people impacted,” he said. — AFP

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