Up to 20 construction workers and several vehicles plunge into river after Baltimore bridge collapses

26 March 2024, 07:37 | Updated: 26 March 2024, 13:47

The Baltimore bridge collapsed after being struck by a 'large vessel'.
The Baltimore bridge collapsed after being struck by a 'large vessel'. Picture: YouTube/StreamTimeLive

By Jenny Medlicott

Up to 20 people and several vehicles have fallen into a river following the collapse of the 'Key Bridge' in Baltimore.

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Footage showed a large section of the Francis Scott Key Bridge falling into the water along with a number of vehicles.

The bridge collapsed after it was hit by a container ship, with a rescue operation now underway.

The incident was reported to the authorities in the area at 1.30am local time.

As many as 20 workers are thought to have fallen into the water, the Baltimore fire department said.

It comes after Kevin Cartwright, the department's director of communications, initially said only seven were believed to have fallen in.

He confirmed the bridge had been hit by a “large vessel” which caused it to collapse into the Patapsco River.

There were no immediate reports of any casualties.

Mr Cartwright said it is too early to know how many people may have been affected but described the incident as a “developing mass casualty event” and "dire emergency".

He said the main focus right now is “trying to rescue and recover these people”.

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Two pulled from water after Baltimore bridge hit by cargo ship collapses

Graphic shows location of collapsed bridge in Baltimore

Speaking during a press conference, the chief of Baltimore's fire department, James Wallace, said two people had already been pulled from the water.

One of them was not injured and refused assistance and another has been taken to a trauma centre and is in "very serious condition", he said.

Mayor Brandon Scott said the collapse was an "unthinkable tragedy" as he thanked first responders for their efforts.

A container ship, known as Dali, was heading to Colombo in Sri Lanka when it struck the bridge. It caught fire and sank after the crash.

A livestream showed the shocking moment the disaster occurred with the key 1.6 mile-long bridge crumbling at its foundations before overturning into the river.

Vehicles could be seen falling from the bridge in the footage. The fire department later confirmed that several had been detected in the water but it remains unclear how many there are.

The bridge collapsed in the early hours of the morning.
The bridge collapsed in the early hours of the morning. Picture: Alamy

Tracking websites showed the ship positioned stationary under the bridge following the incident.

Detective Niki Fennoy at Baltimore Police Department told NBC News: "I can confirm at 1.35am, Baltimore City police were notified of a partial bridge collapse, with workers possibly in the water, at the Francis Scott Key Bridge.”

Johnny Olszewski, Baltimore county executive, said he remains in contact with the fire department chief and director of emergency operations.

He added: “Please pray for those impacted”.

The Maryland Transportation Authority said: "All lanes closed both directions for incident on I-695 Key Bridge. Traffic is being detoured."

Parts of the Francis Scott Key Bridge remain after a container ship collided with a support
Parts of the Francis Scott Key Bridge remain after a container ship collided with a support. Picture: Alamy

The White House said it is "closely monitoring" the situation and its "hearts go out" to the families of those who are missing after the "horrific incident".

In a statement, it said: "The US Coast Guard is conducting search and rescue for those who remain unaccounted for as a result of the bridge collapse. 

"Senior White House officials are in touch with the governor and mayor to offer any federal assistance they need. There is no indication of any nefarious intent."

The bridge, which opened in 1977, spans the Patapsco River, a vital artery that along with the Port of Baltimore is a hub for shipping on the East Coast. It is named for the writer of The Star-Spangled Banner.

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