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A container ship, Dali collided with a pillar of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore (Maryland) around 1:30 am local time on March 26. The collision caused significant damage, leading to the bridge collapsing into the Patapsco River.

However, all traffic on board the bridge was stopped in time as the 22 crew onboard the vessel sent out a ‘mayday’ call alerting local authorities that they had lost power on the vessel.

Also Read | Baltimore bridge collapse: Francis Scott Key Bridge falls after ship collision; mass casualties feared — Watch

Crew Hailed for Heroic Actions

The container ship’s “mayday” call before the collision prompted a swift response from authorities, leading to the evacuation of individuals on the bridge. This quick action is credited with potentially saving lives.

However, six members of a nighttime construction crew working on the bridge are missing and presumed dead. Efforts to locate their bodies are ongoing.

“Personnel onboard the ship were able to alert the Maryland Department of Transportation that they had lost control of their vessel. As a result, local authorities were able to close the bridge to traffic before the bridge was struck, which undoubtedly saved lives,” Biden said during his comments at the White House.

Also Read | Baltimore bridge collapse: 6 missing workers presumed dead, Joe Biden plans to travel ‘as quickly as I can’ | 10 points

Maryland Governor Wes Moore also said the crew’s quick alert had saved lives.

“We can confirm that the crew notified authorities of a power issue. These people are heroes. We’re thankful that between the Mayday and the collapse we had officials who were able to begin to stop the flow of traffic. These people are heroes. They saved lives last night,” Moore told AFP.

What About the Casualties?

All 22 crew members, including the two pilots, are reported to be safe, according to the Synergy Marine Group.

Eight people from a construction crew engaged in filling potholes on the bridge fell into the water, with two managing to survive. Unfortunately, six individuals are currently unaccounted for. Efforts to locate them are set to recommence on Wednesday morning, AP reported.

Reports from diplomatic sources indicate that among the missing are individuals hailing from Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico. One of the identified individuals is Maynor Yassir Suazo Sandova, a Honduran citizen, as per AP.

Also Read | Baltimore bridge collapse: US Transportation Secy says ‘path to normalcy will not be easy…not an ordinary bridge’

What Caused the Incident?

While the exact cause of the collision is yet to be determined, Moore confirmed that the container ship experienced a loss of power before the incident. 

Both federal and state authorities have suggested that the incident is likely an accident. The National Transportation Safety Board is conducting an investigation, leading to the indefinite suspension of ship traffic entering and departing from the Port of Baltimore.

The Francis Scott Key Bridge is a vital transportation route handling 31,000 cars per day or 11.3 million vehicles annually. The route is now suspended, impacting both local and international shipping operations.

Also Read | Baltimore Bridge Collapse: Coal export likely to take a hit for around six weeks

Baltimore’s port handles a smaller volume compared to major ports such as New York and New Jersey but is still key. US Biden has called for government funding to rebuild the collapsed bridge and expedite port reopening.

Sharing details of the vessel ‘Dali’, the Synergy Marine Group said the capacity of the ship is 10,000 TEU (twenty-foot equivalent unit), while 4,679 TEU were onboard. It said the owner of the vessel was Grace Ocean Private; the crew members were all Indians and 22 in total. The vessel was “outbound from Baltimore to Colombo” in Sri Lanka.

(With inputs from AP, AFP)

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Published: 27 Mar 2024, 10:07 AM IST

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