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Baltimore port traffic affected after astray ship downs bridge

Tuesday, March 26th 2024 - 19:56 UTC
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At least six people were missing but there could be more At least six people were missing but there could be more

A powerless large cargo ship hit the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore, Maryland, early Tuesday, leading to the structure's collapse while many people had to be rescued from the Patapsco River. The FBI ruled out any link with foreign-sponsored terrorism. Opened in 1977, the bridge was named after the author of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

“All lanes in both directions are closed due to an incident on the Key Bridge on I-695. Traffic is being detoured,” the Maryland Transportation Authority said on X after the accident at about 1.30 a.m.

According to Maryland Transportation Secretary Paul Wiedefeld, eight people were on the bridge at the time of the impact. Two of them were accounted for, with one needing hospitalization. At least six others were missing, although Baltimore Fire Department Communications Director Kevin Cartwright spoke of seven. Wiedefeld also explained that the six people unaccounted for were part of a construction crew filling potholes on the bridge.

Baltimore Fire Department Chief James Wallace said two people were rescued from the water, one unharmed and the other who was taken to the hospital in serious condition.

The ship's crew issued a mayday call moments before hitting one of the bridge's supports. Shortly afterward, a column of thick black smoke could be seen.

“It looked like something out of an action movie,” said Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott.

Between 1960 and 2015, there were 35 major bridge collapses worldwide due to ship or barge collisions, according to World Association for Waterborne Transport Infrastructure records.

“Losing this bridge will devastate the entire area, as well as the entire East Coast,” Maryland state Sen. Johnny Ray Salling said.

Synergy Marine Group, which manages the vessel -named Dali- said all crew members and the two pilots on board were accounted for, and there were no reports of any injuries.

President Joseph Biden said he planned to travel to Baltimore “as quickly as I can.”

“The people of Baltimore can count on us, though, to stick with them at every step of the way until the port is reopened and the bridge is rebuilt,” he added.

The Singapore-flagged Dali was headed from Baltimore to Colombo, Sri Lanka. She was 300 meters long and about 48 meters wide with a cargo capacity of 95,000 tons.

Inspectors found a problem with the Dali's machinery in June, but a more recent examination did not identify any deficiencies, according to the shipping information system Equasis.

The bridge's collapse threatens to disrupt the US$ 80 billion in cargo shipments. Baltimore is the nation’s leading import and export site for cars, light trucks, sugar, and gypsum — with a record 52.3 million tons of foreign cargo transported in 2023.

According to Chilean media, local authorities had detected at the San Antonio maritime terminal a series of deficiencies in “propulsion and auxiliary machinery: gauges, thermometers, etc” on June 27 last year regarding the Dali, a vessel that had been inspected 27 times since its construction in 2015.

In November 2016, damage to Dali's hull was detected in Antwerp, Belgium, affecting “its seaworthiness” because it was holed.

The Dali's last inspection was on Sept. 9 last year, carried out by the US Coast Guard in New York. No deficiencies were observed then.

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