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Baltimore Bridge Collapse: Everything We Know About the Disaster

A major bridge has collapsed in the US city of Baltimore after being hit by a 289 meter long cargo ship.

Six people are still missing after two others were rescued from the water following the disaster early Tuesday morning.

Here’s everything we know about the incident so far.

What happened?

A large portion of the 1.6-mile Francis Scott Key Bridge fell into the water after being struck by a container ship, known as the Dali, around 1:30 a.m. local time (5:30 a.m. from the United Kingdom).

The ship struck one of the bridge’s supports, causing the entire structure to collapse, sending the road surface and steel beams crashing into the water.

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The National Transportation Safety Board is leading the investigation into what happened, with its chair, Jennifer Homendy, saying at least six people are still missing.

Eight people were initially missing, with one described as being in “very serious condition” in hospital. The other was not injured.

The six missing were believed to be part of a construction crew repairing potholes on the bridge, the Maryland Department of Transportation said.

All 22 crew members on board the ship, including the two pilots, were accounted for and no injuries were reported.

Learn more:
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Two possible causes of the disaster

The Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore collapsed after a collision with a ship. Pic: Raw Alerts

What do the images show?

Dramatic video shows the cargo ship approaching the bridge before the structure collapses into the water.

Vehicles can be seen falling from the bridge.

An exact number was not given, but Baltimore Fire Communications Chief Kevin Cartwright said several vehicles were on the bridge when it was struck by the vessel, one of which was the size of a heavy weight.

U.S. President Joe Biden said at a news conference hours after the collapse that personnel aboard the ship were able to alert the Maryland Department of Transportation that they had lost control of their vessel.

Mr Biden added that this “undoubtedly saved lives” because it meant local authorities were able to close the bridge before it was hit.

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Footage showing the moment the bridge collapsed

What happened moments before the accident?

Video surveillance and maritime tracking data show the container ship lost power for about 60 seconds, about four minutes before hitting the bridge. He appeared to adjust his trajectory and begin smoking before impact.

According to CCTV timings, the ship struck the structure at 1:28:44 a.m. – with the bridge collapsing four seconds later.

Operators of the freighter Dali issued a rescue call saying the ship had lost power moments before the accident, but the ship was still heading toward the bridge at “a very, very fast speed,” the ship said. Governor of Maryland, Wes Moore.

The ship was traveling at eight knots, or about 9 mph, when it struck the structure, the governor said.

Francis Scott Key Bridge

What do we know about the ship?

The Singapore-flagged container ship, known as the Dali, was heading to Colombo in Sri Lanka at the time of the collision.

Synergy Marine Group, the company that manages the ship, said it struck the deck while under the control of two pilots.

The company said the exact cause of the incident had not yet been determined.

The Dali was previously involved in a minor incident when it hit a quay at the port of Antwerp in Belgium in 2016, according to Vessel Finder and maritime accident site Shipwrecklog.

An inspection of the Dali last June at a port in Chile identified a problem with the ship’s “propulsion and auxiliary machinery,” according to Equasis, a maritime information system.

The deficiency involved gauges and thermometers, but online records from the website do not provide details.

The most recent inspection listed for the Dali was conducted by the U.S. Coast Guard in New York on September 13, 2023. According to Equasis data, the “standard review” did not identify any deficiencies.

What do we know about the bridge itself?

Last June, federal inspectors deemed the 47-year-old bridge to be in fair condition. But the structure does not appear to have pillar protection to withstand the crash, experts said.

“If a bridge pier without adequate protection is hit by a ship of this size, there’s not much the bridge can do,” according to Roberto Leon, an engineering professor at Virginia Tech.

Built in 1977 and locally called Key Bridge, it is named after the author of the American national anthem.

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What impact could this collision have?

All shipping traffic in and out of the Port of Baltimore has been suspended until further notice, although the port remains open to trucks, Maryland Transportation Secretary Paul Wiedefeld said.

Last year, the port handled a record 52.3 million tonnes of foreign goods worth $80 billion (£63 billion), according to the state. In addition to cargo, more than 444,000 passengers left the port in 2023.

The port is a major hub for shipping on the East Coast. The bridge spans the Patapsco River, which huge cargo ships use to reach the Chesapeake Bay and then the Atlantic Ocean.

The Dali was heading from Baltimore to Colombo, Sri Lanka, and was flying the flag of Singapore, according to Marine Traffic data.

President Biden said he plans to travel to Baltimore “as quickly as possible” and expects the federal government to cover the entire cost of rebuilding the bridge.

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Baltimore Bridge Collapse Timeline

Has this ever happened before?

From 1960 to 2015, there were 35 major bridge collapses worldwide due to collisions with ships or barges, with a total of 342 people killed, according to a 2018 report from the World Association for Infrastructure. water transport.

Eighteen of these collapses occurred in the United States.

Among them was a 2002 incident in which a barge hit the Interstate 40 bridge over the Arkansas River in Webbers Falls, Oklahoma, sending the vehicles plunging into the water. Fourteen people died and 11 were injured.

In 2001, a tugboat and barge struck the Queen Isabel Causeway in Port Isabel, Texas, causing an 80-foot section of the bridge to fall into the bay below. Eight people were killed.

In 1993, barges being pushed by a tugboat in heavy fog struck and displaced the Big Bayou Canot railroad bridge near Mobile, Alabama.

Minutes later, an Amtrak train with 220 people on board reached the moved bridge and derailed, killing 47 people and injuring 103 others.

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