Baltimore bridge collapses sending cars and people into river

BALTIMORE –  A 948-foot container ship smashed into a four-lane bridge in the US port of Baltimore in darkness early on Tuesday, causing it to collapse and sending cars and people plunging into the river below.

Rescuers pulled out two survivors, one of whom remains hospitalised, and were searching for more in the Patapsco River after huge spans of the 1.6-mile (2.57 km) Francis Scott Key Bridge crumpled into the water.

“The preliminary investigation points to an accident,” Maryland Governor Wes Moore said at a briefing, and there was no credible evidence of terrorism.

Eight people were on the bridge at the time of the collision and six remain unaccounted for, the state’s transportation secretary said hours after the collision, which closed one of the busiest ports in the US.

The US Coast Guard reported the collapse at 1:27 a.m. and it deployed crews for an active search and rescue mission after the Singapore-flagged container ship forced the trellis-like bridge up into a mangled mass of metal.

Work crews had been repairing potholes on the bridge at the time of the collapse and sonar detected vehicles under the water, which was about 50 feet deep at that point, said Paul Wiedefeld, Maryland Secretary of Transportation.

The bridge was up to code and there were no known structural issues, Moore said. He said the vessel’s crew members notified authorities of a power issue on board before the crash.

President Joe Biden was being briefed on the collision, the White House said.

Jayme Krause was in the midst of another night shift at her workplace on shore when the cart of packages in front of her shook violently at around 2 a.m.. A coworker told her the bridge had collapsed and she ran out to look.

“I went over there, and sure as anything, it was gone, the whole bridge was just like, there was nothing there,” she told Reuters in an interview. “It was a shocking sight to see.”

The ship “lost propulsion” as it was leaving port, and a crew on board notified Maryland officials they had lost control of the vessel, ABC News reported, citing an unclassified US intelligence report.

Traffic was suspended at the Port of Baltimore until further notice, Maryland transportation authorities said. It is the busiest US port for car shipments, handling more than 750 000 vehicles in 2022, according to port data. The closure of one of the US East Coast’s major ports threatens to disrupt supplies of goods from cars, to coal and other commodities like sugar. It could create bottlenecks and increase delays and costs on the Northeastern seaboard, experts say. The port handles the most car imports and is among the largest for coal exports. (Reuters)

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