What we know about the Baltimore bridge collapse

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A cargo ship is stuck under the part of the structure of the Francis Scott Key Bridge after the ship hit the bridge Tuesday, March 26, 2024, in Baltimore, Md. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

Summary

BALTIMORE (AP) — Authorities are piecing together what led to the bridge collapse in Baltimore. But so far, we know that Maryland Gov. Wes Moore said a large cargo ship lost power and issued a mayday call moments before it struck the bridge early Tuesday, though it was still moving toward the span at a rapid speed. The Francis Scott Key Bridge broke apart and tumbled into the Patapsco River. Two people were rescued, but officials say they haven’t been able to account for six others. Ship traffic has been suspended at the Port of Baltimore, which handles tens of billions of dollars in cargo each year.

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BALTIMORE (AP) — A cargo ship rammed into Baltimore’s Francis Scott Bridge early Tuesday, causing the span to collapse and rescuers to launch a massive search for at least six people who were missing.

Here’s what we know so far about the disaster:What exactly happened?

The operators of the Dali cargo ship issued a mayday call that the vessel had lost power moments before the crash, but the ship still headed toward the span “a very, very rapid speed,” Maryland Gov. Wes Moore said.

The 985-foot-long (300-meter-long) vessel struck one of the 1.6-mile (2.6-kilometer) bridge’s supports, causing the span to break and fall into the water within seconds. The ship caught fire, and thick, black smoke billowed out of it.

Synergy Marine Group, which manages the ship, said it had been in the control of one or more pilots, who are local specialists who help navigate vessels safely into ports.

The ship was moving at 8 knots, which is roughly 9 mph (15 kph), when it struck the span, the governor said.

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 shipping information system. The deficiency involved gauges and thermometers, but the website’s online records didn’t elaborate.

The most recent inspection listed for the Dali was conducted by the U.S. Coast Guard in New York on Sept. 13, 2023. The “standard examination” didn’t identify any deficiencies, according to the Equasis data.

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

“If a bridge pier without adequate protection is hit by a ship of this size, there is very little that the bridge could do,” according to Virginia Tech engineering professor Roberto Leon.How many people are missing?

Two people were rescued, but officials said six people were still unaccounted for as of late morning. All were believed to be part of a construction crew that was repairing potholes on the bridge.

Multiple vehicles also fell into the water, although authorities don’t think anyone was inside them.

The ship is owned by Singapore-based Grace Ocean Private Ltd., which said all crew members, including the two pilots, were accounted for and there were no reports of injuries involving anyone who was on board.

The ship’s warning enabled authorities to limit vehicle traffic on the span. Plus, the accident occurred at 1:30 a.m., long before the busy morning rush. The bridge carried an estimated 30,800 vehicles a day on average in 2019.What impact could this have?

The collapse will almost surely create a logistical nightmare for months, if not years, in the region, shutting down ship traffic at the Port of Baltimore, a major shipping hub. The accident will also snarl cargo and commuter traffic.

All ship traffic into and out of the port has been suspended until further notice, though the port remains open to trucks, Maryland Transportation Secretary Paul Wiedefeld said.

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

The Dali was headed from Baltimore to Colombo, Sri Lanka, and flying under a Singapore flag, according to data from Marine Traffic.

President Joe Biden said Tuesday that he plans to travel to Baltimore “as quickly as I can” and that he expects the federal government to pick up the entire cost of rebuilding the bridge.

The collapse, however, is not likely to have a big effect on worldwide trade because Baltimore is not a major port for container vessels, but the port’s facilities are more important when it comes to goods such as farm equipment and autos, said Judah Levine, head of research for global freight booking platform Freightos.How often does this happen?

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

Eighteen of those collapses happened in the United States.

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

In 2001, a tugboat and barge struck the Queen Isabella Causeway in Port Isabel, Texas, causing a section of the bridge to tumble 80 feet (24 meters) into the bay below. Eight people were killed.

In 1993, barges being pushed by a towboat in dense fog hit and displaced the Big Bayou Canot railroad bridge near Mobile, Alabama. Minutes later, an Amtrak train with 220 people on board reached the displaced bridge and derailed, killing 47 people and injuring 103 others.

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Mar 26, 2024 1:56 PM – 842 words

Eds: UPDATES: Updates Media. EDITS: Minor edits.

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