A collision on a Baltimore bridge sends vehicles overturning into the water
A collision on a Baltimore bridge sends vehicles overturning into the water

(Reuters) – A container ship crashed into a four-lane bridge in Baltimore after dark on Tuesday, causing it to collapse and sending cars and people into the river below.

Rescuers pulled out two survivors, one in “very serious condition,” and were searching for more in the Patapsco River after huge sections of the 1.6-mile Francis Scott Key Bridge collapsed into the water.

The ship “lost propulsion” while leaving port, and the crew on board notified Maryland officials that they had lost control of the ship, ABC News reported, citing an unclassified U.S. intelligence report.

“The preliminary investigation points to an accident,” Maryland Gov. Wes Moore said at a briefing, and there is no credible evidence of terrorism.

Eight people were on the bridge at the time of the collision and six were unaccounted for, the state’s transportation secretary said hours after the collision.

The U.S. Coast Guard reported the collapse at 1:27 a.m. local time and deployed crews on an active search and rescue mission after the Singapore-flagged container ship forced the lattice-like bridge into a mangled mass of metal.

A spokesman for the Baltimore City Fire Department earlier told Reuters that up to 20 people could be in the river along with “multiple vehicles and possibly a tractor trailer or a vehicle as large as a tractor trailer (that) went into the river.”

“This is a multi-casualty, multi-agency event,” he said. “This operation will take many days.”

Live video posted on YouTube shows the ship slamming into the bridge in the darkness. Vehicle headlights could be seen on the bridge as it crashed into the water and the ship caught fire.

President Joe Biden was briefed on the confrontation and there was no indication of criminal intent, the White House said.

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

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

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

It was not immediately clear whether other ships were damaged or whether operations to and from the port were halted, shipping and insurance sources said.

Baltimore police said they were notified of the incident at 1:35 a.m. local time.

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

Synergy Marine said the Dali collided with one of the bridge columns and that all crew members, including the two pilots, were recovered and no injuries were reported.

Dali was employed by shipping company Maersk at the time of the incident, the Danish company said in a statement.

“We are horrified by what happened in Baltimore and our thoughts are with everyone affected,” Maersk said.

The Port of Baltimore’s private and public terminals handled 847,158 cars and light trucks in 2023. The port also handles agricultural and construction machinery, sugar, gypsum and coal, according to a Maryland government website.

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

More than 40 vessels remained in port, including small cargo ships, tugboats and pleasure craft, data from ship tracking and marine analytics provider MarineTraffic showed. At least 30 other ships signaled that their destination was Baltimore, the records show.

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

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

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