Rescuers search water for survivors after ship collides with Baltimore bridge

A major bridge collapsed in the US port after being struck by a container ship, plunging cars and around 20 people into the river below

Nathan HowardReuters
Published : 26 March 2024, 08:22 AM
Updated : 26 March 2024, 08:22 AM

A major bridge collapsed in the US port of Baltimore in the early hours of Tuesday after being struck by a container ship, plunging cars and as many as 20 people into the river below.

Rescuers were searching for survivors in the Patapsco River after huge spans of the 1.6-mile (2.57 km) Francis Scott Key Bridge crumpled into the water.

As many as 20 people could be in the river along with "numerous vehicles, and possibly a tractor-trailer or a vehicle as large as a tractor-trailer, (that) went into the river," Kevin Cartwright, the spokesperson for Baltimore City Fire Department, told Reuters.

"This is a mass-casualty, multi-agency event," he said. "This operation is going to extend for many days."

A live video posted on YouTube showed the ship ploughing into the bridge in darkness. The headlights of vehicles could be seen on the bridge as it crashed down into the water and the ship caught fire. Reuters could not immediately verify the videos.

Maryland Governor Wes Moore declared a state of emergency. He said in a statement the state was "working with an interagency team to quickly deploy federal resources from the Biden Administration." The FBI in Baltimore said on X its personnel were "on scene".

Baltimore is the busiest US port for car shipments, handling more than 750,000 vehicles in 2022, according to data from the Maryland Port Administration.

It was not immediately clear if any other vessels had been damaged or whether operations had halted to and from the port, shipping and insurance sources said.

"We received several 911 calls at around 1:30am, that a vessel struck the Key Bridge in Baltimore, causing the collapse," Cartwright said.

Baltimore police said they had been notified of the incident at 1:35am ET (535 GMT).

The ship was identified by LSEG ship tracking data as a Singapore-flagged container ship, the Dali. The registered owner of the ship is Grace Ocean Pte Ltd and the manager is Synergy Marine Group, LSEG data show.

Synergy Marine Corp said the Dali collided with one of the pillars of the bridge and that all its crew members, including the two pilots, had been accounted for and there were no reports of any injuries.

The Dali was chartered by shipping company Maersk MAERSKb.CO at the time of the incident, the Danish company said in a statement.

"We are horrified by what has happened in Baltimore, and our thoughts are with all of those affected," Maersk said.

Reuters could not immediately reach Grace Ocean for comment.

Baltimore port's private and public terminals handled 847,158 autos and light trucks in 2023, the most of any US port. The port also handles farm and construction machinery, sugar, gypsum and coal, according to a Maryland government website.

The port handles imports and exports for major automakers including Nissan, Toyota, General Motors, Volvo, Jaguar Land Rover and the Volkswagen group - including luxury models for Audi, Lamborghini and Bentley.

More than 40 ships remained inside Baltimore port including small cargo ships, tug boats and pleasure craft, data from ship tracking and maritime analytics provider MarineTraffic showed. At least 30 other ships had signalled their destination was Baltimore, the data showed.

The port did not immediately respond to Reuters' request for comment.

The bridge, named after Francis Scott Key, author of the Star Spangled Banner, opened in 1977.