Scramble for survivors after Baltimore bridge collapses flinging up to 20 people and several cars into freezing river

26 March 2024, 12:58

Hunt for survivors after a bridge collapses in Baltimore following a collision with a cargo ship
Hunt for survivors after a bridge collapses in Baltimore following a collision with a cargo ship. Picture: getty

By StephenRigley

US emergency services are in a race against time to save up to 20 people who plunged into Baltimore's Patapsco River and a cargo ship slammed into a bridge.

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A state of emergency was declared by Governor Wes Moore following the collision which occurred at around 1.30am.

Initial reports indicate that at least a dozen cars hit the 47 degree water in addition to around 20 construction workers who were doing concrete repair work on the bridge at the time.

The ship's crew has remained on board the ship, which remains marooned under the bridge, and are being questioned by members of the Coast Guard.

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

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

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

During an early morning press conference at around 6:30 am, Baltimore Fire Chief James Wallace was only able to confirm that two people were pulled from the water.

One was unhurt, the other had to be rushed to a local hospital with "serious injuries".

It was not immediately clear what caused the cargo ship to crash into the bridge. The FBI has not ruled out terrorism.

One local official described the collision as a "developing mass casualty event."

Cargo ship crashes into Baltimore bridge which collapsed
Cargo ship crashes into Baltimore bridge which collapsed. Picture: Getty

The rescue effort incorporates Coast Guard ships, local police boats, Baltimore's Fire Department, volunteer fire departments from the surrounding areas as well as teams of divers as the desperate search for survivors goes on.

According to an early Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) report, the container ship "lost propulsion" as it was leaving port. 

"The vessel notified MD Department of Transportation (MDOT) that they had lost control of the vessel and an allision with the bridge was possible," the report said.

"The vessel struck the bridge causing a complete collapse."

The ship crashed into one of the bridge’s supports, causing the structure to snap and buckle at several points and tumble into the water in a matter of seconds — a shocking spectacle that was captured on video and posted on social media.

The vessel caught fire billowing thick black smoke out of its wreck.

There appeared to be an explosion on the container ship as it collided with the bridge sending container and diesel flooding into the water. One of the vehicles that fell to the water was a tractor-trailer.

The ship involved is the 948 foot long Dali, a Singaporean-flagged container bound for Colombo, Sri Lanka. It could be seen on ship tracking websites positioned stationary under the bridge following the crash.

It left Baltimore's Seagirt Marine Terminal at 12:24am. At 1:25am, is began to slow and diverted off of its course. The video shows lights going off on board just before the crash.

Graphic shows location of collapsed bridge in Baltimore

It's unclear what cargo the Dali was holding. According to the ship's owners, all crew members were accounted for with no injuries reported.

 Around 30,000 vehicles use the bridge, which is named for the writer of the Star Spangled Banner, every day. It opened in 1977.

Sonar has indicated that there are vehicles in the water, where the temperature was about 47 degrees Fahrenheit in the early hours of Tuesday, according to a buoy that collects data for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

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