US City In 'State Of Emergency' As Bridge Collapses Due To Ship Collision

At least 21 vessels are in waters to the west of the collapsed bridge.

A major commuter bridge in Baltimore collapsed after being rammed by a container ship, causing vehicles to plunge into the water and threatening chaos at one of the most important ports on the US East Coast.

Baltimore Fire Chief James Wallace said two people had been pulled from the water, one of whom was seriously injured. Authorities were looking for up to seven people who are believed to be in the water, although it was unclear if that included the two who were retrieved

The disaster at the Francis Scott Key Bridge happened early Tuesday. It will cause huge disruption – both for shipping at one of the busiest ports on the US East Coast and on the roads – now that a key link has been severed on the major highway encircling Baltimore.

The vessel is the Dali, which sails under the flag of Singapore. The 32,000-ton ship was built in 2015. A London-based spokesman for Synergy Marine, its manager and operator, said the Dali had around 4,900 containers on board at the time. Company executives were traveling to the site to assess the situation. It is on charter to Copenhagen-based container shipping giant A.P. Moller-Maersk A/S.

Maryland Governor Wes Moore declared a state of emergency. The White House is monitoring the incident, said a White House official, who added there is no sign yet of any nefarious intent. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg posted on X that he had offered his agency’s support as the rescue effort is ongoing.

An extended shutdown is going to bring chaos for travelers just ahead of the Easter holiday weekend on the already clogged corridor between New York and Washington, DC.

The bridge allows commercial ships to enter the Port of Baltimore, one of the top ports in the US in terms of volume and value of cargoes. It is the largest US port for handling cars and light trucks.

At least 21 vessels are in waters to the west of the collapsed bridge, raising a question of how easily they’ll be able to get out. About half of them are tugs but there are also at least three bulk carriers, one vehicles carrier and a small tanker.

The Baltimore port handled 847,158 autos and light trucks in 2023, the most of any US port for the 13th straight year, according to a state of Maryland website. The port also handled large volumes of imported sugar, gypsum and coffee, as well as coal for export.

It is a major distribution hub and the port is the biggest in Maryland, handling over 10 million tons of cargo annually.

At the time of the crash there were seven cargo ships moored at terminals upstream from the bridge. That included three bulk carriers, one vehicle carrier, one asphalt/bitumen carrier and two general cargo ships, according to vessel tracking data compiled by Bloomberg.

The Dali had arrived from China, making deliveries to several ports along the eastern seaboard before arriving at Baltimore on Sunday. A second car transporter is moored just downstream of the bridge at the Volkswagen terminal. It was due to go to Sri Lanka.

The Dali was carrying containers from East Asia to the US East Coast via the Panama Canal. It can haul the equivalent of about 9,700 steel boxes, about half the size of the industry’s largest ships.

It arrived at the Seagirt Marine Terminal in Baltimore on March 24 after delivering to the Port of New York /New Jersey, and had offloaded a small amount of containers before attempting its return journey to Asia early Tuesday morning.

Aside from the gridlock for regional traffic that the shutdown will cause, several prominent companies have distribution warehouses or other facilities in an industrial park on the north end of the bridge. They include Inc., FedEx Corp., Under Armour Inc., the Home Depot Inc., BMW Group and Volkswagen Group of America, according to Google.

The bridge also serves as an alternative route for hazardous cargo like some flammable liquids and oversized vehicles that are prohibited from going through the more direct route through the Baltimore Harbor Tunnel.

An extended shutdown is going to cause major congestion and for travelers and business alike – possibly for months. According to time and mileage estimates on Google, a northbound drive from Interstate 95 around the western arc of 1-695 to avoid the Key bridge takes about an hour, versus the 32 minutes it took going eastward across the bridge.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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