Baltimore Bridge Collapse: 6 Presumed Dead, Search Suspended; Indian Mission Creates Hotline For Its Citizens

Baltimore Bridge Collapse: 6 Presumed Dead, Search Suspended; Indian Mission Creates Hotline For Its Citizens

Emergency workers were suspending the search for six people missing after a major bridge collapsed in the US city of Baltimore on Tuesday. All six people were members of a nighttime construction crew who were repairing potholes on the Francis Scott Key Bridge when disaster struck not long after midnight.

Video footage showed the packed container ship slamming into one of the bridge’s supports, causing the 1977-built steel structure to then collapse. “Based on the length of time that we’ve gone in this search… (and) the water temperature… at this point, we do not believe that we’re going to find any of these individuals still alive,” said US Coast Guard Rear Admiral Shannon Gilreath.

“We’re going away from the search and rescue portion to a recovery operation,” said Roland Butler, Maryland’s secretary of state police. He said the temperatures and currents were making it difficult for divers to continue working underwater, but that boats would continue patrolling overnight.

The Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore, Maryland which crosses the Patapsco River has reportedly Collapsed within the last few minutes after being Struck by a Large Container Ship; a Mass Casualty Incident has been Declared with over a Dozen Cars and many Individuals said to…— OSINTdefender (@sentdefender) March 26, 2024

Indian crew “heroes”

All 22-member crew aboard the container ship that crashed into the bridge in Baltimore were Indians, the vessel management company said, adding that they were all safe and secure. Maryland Governor Wes Moore called the Indian crew “heroes” for their prompt warning before the collision because of which “many lives were saved”.

All crew members, including the two pilots, have been accounted for and there are no reports of any injuries. Meanwhile, the Indian Embassy in Washington condoled the “unfortunate accident” and created a hotline for Indian citizens affected by the bridge collapse.

Our heartfelt condolences to all affected by the unfortunate accident at the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore.For any Indian citizens that may be affected/ require assistance, the Embassy of India has created a dedicated hotline: please reach out to us on +1-202-717-1996.…

— India in USA (@IndianEmbassyUS) March 26, 2024

‘Preliminary investigation’

Maryland Governor said earlier that quick thinking by authorities, once the ship issued a Mayday call, allowed them to stop vehicles from driving onto the bridge. “These people are heroes. They saved lives last night,” he told a press conference. The FBI and other agencies stressed that there was no known connection to terrorism. “The preliminary investigation points to an accident,” Moore said.

The governor also said there was no indication that the bridge was structurally at fault, noting that it “was actually fully up to code.” “The crew that was out there working was basically repairing potholes, just so you understand that had nothing to do with a structural issue at all,” Paul Wiedefeld, the Maryland transportation chief, said.

This evening, @USCG announced that they are suspending rescue operations at Key Bridge. Tomorrow morning at 6:00 AM @MDSP will begin recovery in coordination with our partners.— Governor Wes Moore (@GovWesMoore) March 27, 2024

‘Terrible accident’

President Joe Biden called the collapse a “terrible accident,” and pledged to get the port reopened and the bridge rebuilt. Two of the missing workers were from Guatemala, the country’s foreign ministry said. Details emerged on how the crew tried to avert disaster after their ship lost power and began careening toward the bridge. “Just prior to the incident, the vessel, Dali, had experienced momentary loss of propulsion. As a result, it was unable to maintain the desired heading and collided,” said the maritime authority for Singapore, where the Dali is flagged.

This authority said the ship’s management company, Synergy Marine Pte Ltd, reported the crew “dropped anchors” in a last-ditch attempt to hold the ship back. Federal investigators expect recordings from the vessel to be critical to help determine what happened, said Jennifer Homendy, head of the National Transportation Safety Board, which is overseeing the investigation. Butler, with Maryland state police, said divers on Wednesday morning will “begin a more detailed search to do our very best to recover those six missing people.”

Ninth-busiest major US port

The Francis Scott Key Bridge, named after the poet who penned the lyrics to the US national anthem, is an important link in the East Coast highway system, used by about 34,000 vehicles every day. There are other bridges and tunnels for drivers to cross the harbor. However, the tangled steel barrier now lying half-submerged across the harbor entrance blocks almost all maritime traffic. The Port of Baltimore is the ninth-busiest major US port in terms of both foreign cargo handled and foreign cargo value, and is directly responsible for more than 15,000 jobs, supporting almost 140,000 more.

It was named after an American attorney who wrote the lyrics of a song that eventually became the US national anthem — The Star Spangled Banner. “There is no question that this will be a major and protracted impact to supply chains,” US Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg warned, adding it was “too soon” to know when the port might reopen. Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott described the bridge as an “unthinkable tragedy… like something out of an action movie.” “We have to be thinking about the families and people impacted,” he said.

(With agency inputs)

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