Rescue efforts underway after Baltimore bridge collapse

26 March 2024

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A major rescue effort is underway after a Singapore-flagged vessel crashed into Francis Scott Key Bridge, Baltimore this morning.

The bridge in the US state of Maryland collapsed after a container ship collided with it early on Tuesday (March 26), sending a number of vehicles into the water.

The Baltimore fire department said it was searching for at least seven people believed to be in the water. The ship caught fire before reportedly sinking.

A video posted on X appeared to show much of the 2.6km bridge giving way, as multiple fell into the Patapsco River below. 

“All lanes closed both directions for incident on I-695 Key Bridge. Traffic is being detoured,” the Maryland Transportation Authority posted on X. “I-695 Key Bridge collapse due to ship strike. Active scene,” it later added.

.Calls to 911 had come in at about 1.30am, reporting a vessel travelling outbound from Baltimore that had struck a column on the bridge, causing it to collapse, said Kevin Cartwright, director of communications, Baltimore fire department. Several vehicles were on the bridge at the time, including one the size of a tractor-trailer.

“Our focus right now is trying to rescue and recover these people,” Cartwright said. He added that it was too early to know how many people were affected but described the collapse as a “developing mass casualty event”.

Cartwright said it appeared that there were “some cargo or retainers” that appeared to be dangling from the bridge, creating unsafe and unstable conditions that were complicating the rescue operation. “This is a dire emergency,” he said.

Matthew West, a petty officer first class for the coastguard in Baltimore, told the New York Times that the coastguard received a report of an impact at 1.27am ET. West said the Dali, a 948ft (29-metre) Singapore-flagged cargo ship, had hit the bridge, which is part of Interstate 695.

The Dali had left Baltimore at 1am and was heading for the Sri Lankan capital, Colombo, according to the maritime data platform MarineTraffic.

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

“Whilst the exact cause of the incident is yet to be determined, the Dali has now mobilised its qualified individual incident response service,” it said.

The Baltimore mayor, Brandon M Scott, and the county executive, Johnny Olszewski Jr, said emergency personnel were at the scene and rescue efforts were under way.

Built in 1977, the bridge spans the Patapsco River, a vital artery that along with the Port of Baltimore is a hub for shipping on the US’s east coast.