Baltimore Bridge collapses into harbor after ship strike, causing mass casualty event

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A container ship struck Baltimore’s Francis Scott Key Bridge, causing a “catastrophic collapse,” sending vehicles and people into the water, officials in Maryland said.

“At this time, itis an active search and rescue mission,” said Maryland Secretary of Transportation, Paul Wiedefeld. “We know there were individuals on the bridge at the time of the collapse, working on the bridge.

At a press conference early the morning officials said two people were rescued, with one of those people said to be is in very serious condition. The other person did not need medical treatment.

The U.S. Coast Guard is conducting search and rescue for those who remain unaccounted for as a result of the bridge collapse.

What to know about the collapse

“I can confirm at 1:35 a.m., Baltimore City police were notified of a partial bridge collapse, with workers possibly in the water, at the Francis Scott Key Bridge,” the Baltimore Police Department said in a statement. Officials have since said the bridge has “fully collapsed.

The Maryland Transportation Authority said the collapse occurred “due to ship strike.”

The 948-foot container ship Dali, a Singapore-flagged vessel owned by Grace Ocean Private Ltd, struck the bridge at about 1:30 a.m., according to a ship-tracking company.

“All crew members, including the two pilots have been accounted for and there are no reports of any injuries,” Synergy Marine Group said in a statement.

The company said the 22 crew members, including the pilots, were based in India.

The cause of the crash is “yet to be determined,” the statement said.

The vessel appears to have hit one of the supports of the Francis Scott Key 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.

Multiple vehicles plunged from the bridge at the time of the collapse, the Baltimore City Fire Department said. Divers were searching for at least seven people in the water, the department said.

Response boat crews from Coast Guard Stations Curtis Bay and Annapolis have crews deployed to the incident for active search and rescue, according to USCG. A Coast Guard Air Station Atlantic City MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew and Coast Guard investigators and pollution responders are also en route to the incident.

“An Urgent Marine Information Broadcast is issued regarding the incident and there has been a 2000-yard safety zone issued for the surrounding waters. Mariners are urged to avoid the area,” USCG said.

The bridge, which is part of Interstate 695, opened in 1977 and crosses the Patapsco River in Baltimore’s harbor. It is a vital artery, that along with the Port of Baltimore, is a hub for shipping on the East Coast.

It is named for the writer of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

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

Emergency responders were searching for at least seven people believed to be in the water, Cartwright said, though he said it’s too early to know how many people were affected. He called the collapse a “developing mass casualty event.”

He added that some cargo appeared to be dangling from the bridge.

He said agencies received 911 calls around 1:30 a.m. reporting that a ship leaving Baltimore had struck a column on the bridge. Several vehicles were on the bridge at the time, including one the size of a tractor-trailer truck.

The temperature in the river was about 47 degrees Fahrenheit (8 degrees Celsius) in the early hours of Tuesday, according to a buoy that collects data for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

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.

Mayor Brandon M. Scott and Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr. posted that emergency personnel were responding and rescue efforts were underway.

“All lanes closed both directions for incident on I-695 Key Bridge,” MDTA officials said in a statement at about 2 a.m. “Traffic is being detoured.”

Governor declares state of emergency

Maryland Gov. Wes Moore has declared a state of emergency following the collapse.

“We are working with an interagency team to quickly deploy federal resources from the Biden Administration,” Moore said in a statement.

Detours and logistics

Drivers are being told to avoid I-695 southeast corridor and use I-95 and I-895 as alternatives.

“I-695 is being detoured southbound at exit 43 (Peninsula Expressway) and northbound at Exit 2 (Route 10),” Wiedefeld said.

Vessel traffic into and out of the Port of Baltimore is suspended until further notice, however, officials said the port is still open for truck transactions.

White House ‘closely monitoring’ bridge collapse

The White House said early Tuesday it was “closely monitoring” the situation in Baltimore, where a cargo ship struck a major bridge.

“Our hearts go out to the families of those who remain missing as a result of this horrific incident,” a White House official said.

There was no indication of “any nefarious intent,” an official said.

Senior White House officials have been in touch with the Maryland governor and Baltimore mayor to offer any federal assistance they need, the administration said.

Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg also said he has spoken to Maryland’s governor and Baltimore’s mayor, offering USDOT support.

FBI Baltimore personnel are also at the scene to assist.

“We are aware of the incident in Baltimore. The priority is ensuring the safety of those affected as a search and rescue operation is underway. We expect an investigation report will be submitted to IMO in due course,” the International Maritime Organization said in a statement.

In 2001, a freight train carrying hazardous materials derailed in a tunnel in downtown Baltimore and caught fire, spewing black smoke into surrounding neighborhoods and forcing officials to temporarily close all major roads into the city.

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