Baltimore bridge collapses after ship strikes it, rescuers search for several people

A major bridge in Baltimore snapped and collapsed after a container ship rammed into it early Tuesday, and several vehicles fell into the river below.

“We do believe at least seven,” Chief James Wallace of the Baltimore Fire Department said in response to a reporter’s question about how many people are unaccounted for after the incident at Francis Scott Key Bridge.

Wallace, at an early morning news conference, said two people were rescued from the water, one who didn’t require medical attention, and another person who was transported to a local hospital.

Wallace said divers, as well as sonar and infrared technologies are being utilized in the search. Sonar has detected the presence of vehicles below the water’s surface, he said.

A bridge is shown collapsed into multiple segments across a body of water.
A view of the Francis Scott Key Bridge after it collapsed is shown early Tuesday in Baltimore, Md. (Harford County MD Fire & EMS/Reuters)

Maryland Transportation Secretary Paul Wiedefeld confirmed reports of workers being on the bridge at the time of the collapse, but did not have specifics on the number of people that entailed. He said it was too soon to tell how long the busy Port of Baltimore would be closed.

The temperature in the river was about 8 C in the early hours of Tuesday, according to a buoy that collects data for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

‘Dire emergency’

The vessel appears to have hit one of the supports of the bridge, causing the roadway to break apart in several places and plunge into the water, according to a video posted on X, formerly known as Twitter.

The ship caught fire, and thick, black smoke billowed out of it.

“This is a dire emergency,” Kevin Cartwright, director of communications for the Baltimore Fire Department, told The Associated Press earlier. “Our focus right now is trying to rescue and recover these people.”

Cartwright said some cargo appeared to be dangling from the bridge, which spans the Patapsco River, a vital artery that along with the port is a hub for shipping on the East Coast.

Agencies received emergency calls around 1:40 a.m. ET reporting that a ship leaving Baltimore had struck a column on the bridge. Wallace said there’s no indication of a fuel spill, though an odour of diesel has been detected.

From a vantage point near the entrance to the bridge, jagged remnants of its steel frame were visible protruding from the water, with the on-ramp ending abruptly where the span once began.

Ship reportedly en route to Asia

The Dali was headed from Baltimore to Colombo, Sri Lanka, and flying under a Singapore flag, according to data from Marine Traffic. The container ship is about 300 metres long and about 48 metres wide, according to the website.

Synergy Marine Group — which owns and manages the ship called the Dali — confirmed the vessel hit a pillar of the bridge at about 1:30 a.m. while two pilots were in control. It said all crew members, including the pilots, were accounted for and there are no reports of any injuries.

Danish shipping giant Maersk said it had chartered the vessel,which was carrying its customers’ cargo. No Maersk crew and personnel were on board.

A bridge cleaved in half is shown, with part of the bridge extending upward.
Parts of the Francis Scott Key Bridge are shown after a container ship collided with a support early Tuesday in Baltimore. (Steve Ruark/The Associated Press)

Baltimore Police Department Commissioner Richard Corley said there was “absolutely no indication” the contact was intentional.

Officials said that the U.S. Coast Guard were in contact with the ship’s crew.

Maryland Gov. Wes Moore declared a state of emergency and said on social media that his office was in communication with U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, who confirmed those consultations himself.

The Francis Scott Key Bridge opened in 1977, named for the writer of The Star Spangled Banner

“Never would you think that you would see, physically see, the Key Bridge tumble down like that. It looked like something out of an action movie,” said Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott, calling it “an unthinkable tragedy.”

Scott at the news conference refused to speculate as to how long it would take to rebuild the bridge in response to a question, saying the focus should be on searching for any people who are missing.

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