Baltimore: Ship issued SOS, helping to reduce traffic on deck as it collapsed

Part of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore collapsed after a cargo ship collided with it on the night of Monday March 25 to Tuesday March 26

Baltimore: Ship issued SOS, helping to reduce traffic on deck as it collapsed

Part of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore collapsed after a cargo ship collided with it on the night of Monday March 25 to Tuesday March 26. The ship crashed into a pier of the 2.6 kilometer-long bridge structure, then burst into flames before sinking. Several vehicles fell into the water in the Patapsco River. “All lanes were closed in both directions due to an incident on the I-695 Key Bridge. Traffic is being diverted,” the Maryland Transportation Authority posted on X.

The container ship managed to send a distress call upstream, which helped reduce road traffic on the bridge and save lives, announced Wes Moore, the governor of the US state of Maryland, in the 'afternoon. “We can confirm that the crew informed the authorities of a power supply problem,” he added.

Shortly after the bridge collapsed, Mr. Moore declared a state of emergency, saying, “We are working with a multi-agency team to rapidly deploy the Biden administration’s federal resources.”

The suspension of shipping “to and from the Port of Baltimore,” was also announced by a Maryland official “until further notice, but the port remains open for truck traffic.”

Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott and County Executive John Olszewski Jr. said rescue efforts were underway. At a press conference held around 7 a.m. (noon in Paris), Mr Scott, for whom the collapse of the bridge represents "an inconceivable tragedy", declared: "We must think of the families and to the people affected, to the people we need to look for, for now we are focusing on that. » “There is absolutely no indication that this was a terrorist act, that this was a deliberate act,” said Richard Worley, the Baltimore police chief.

Vehicles detected underwater by sonar

One person was taken to the hospital in “very serious condition,” reported Baltimore Fire Chief James Wallace, while a second escaped the accident unharmed. “We are looking for seven or more people,” he said. “Our sonar detected the presence of vehicles in the water,” also specified James Wallace, who also stressed that he did not know “the number yet.”

“We know that up to twenty people are currently in the Patapsco, as well as several vehicles,” said Kevin Cartwright, of the Baltimore Fire Department, on CNN television. “Our focus right now is trying to save and recover these people. He added that it was too early to know how many people had been affected, but said the event had caused "many casualties."

Mr. Cartwright also said that agencies received 911 calls around 1:30 a.m. (6:30 a.m. in Paris) reporting that a ship coming from Baltimore had struck a column of the bridge, causing it to collapse. Several vehicles were on the bridge at the time, including one the size of a tractor-trailer.

There appears to be "cargo or restraints hanging from the bridge" that are creating danger and instability, Cartwright said, so emergency responders are operating with caution.

No injuries among crew members

According to Mr Cartwright, the cargo ship which struck one of the bridge supports was the Dali. A ship with that name was sailing from Baltimore to Colombo, Sri Lanka, according to Marine Traffic and Vessel Finder. The container ship was flying the Singaporean flag, radio station WTOP reported, citing Matthew West of the Coast Guard in Baltimore.

Built by the Korean Hyundai shipyard in 2015, it is 300 meters long, 48 meters wide, 24.8 meters high and 15 meters draft. The Dali’s tanks can hold up to 8,344 cubic meters of fuel oil, according to Marine Traffic. It is insured by the British company Britannia.

The ship belongs to the Hong Kong company Grace Ocean. The Danish giant Maersk, for its part, confirmed that it was transporting its customers' goods. “We are horrified by what happened in Baltimore and we send our thoughts to those affected,” the shipowner wrote in a statement.

The ship's managers said Tuesday that there were no injuries among the crew members. “All crew members, including the two pilots, have been found and no injuries have been reported,” Synergy Marine Group wrote on its website.

Accustomed to journeys between Asia and the East Coast of the United States, the Dali crossed the Panama Canal on March 13 before passing through the ports of New York, Norfolk and finally Baltimore. Shortly after it was launched in 2016, the ship caused a first incident by hitting a quay in the port of Antwerp (Belgium), according to the Vessel Finder and Shipwrecklog sites.