Catastrophic bridge collapse in Baltimore: Container ship triggers disaster

Baltimore, a city already rich in history, faced an unprecedented disaster early Tuesday when a container ship, the Dali, collided with the Francis Scott Key Bridge. The impact was so severe that it caused a significant portion of the bridge to break away and fall into the Patapsco River below. The incident, occurring just outside the city limits near Washington, D.C., has escalated into what authorities are calling a “developing mass casualty event.”

In the immediate aftermath, Baltimore Fire Chief James Wallace confirmed the rescue of two individuals from the icy river waters, with one suffering serious injuries. As the search operation continues, Chief Wallace indicated that the rescue teams are potentially looking for up to seven individuals, though this number remains fluid. The relationship between the initial rescues and the ongoing search efforts is yet to be clarified.

The crash happened in the dead of night, a time when the bridge’s traffic is relatively sparse compared to the daytime hustle when it serves as a critical artery for thousands of commuters. Kevin Cartwright, speaking for the Baltimore Fire Department, told The Associated Press that the bridge was not empty at the time of the collapse. Among the vehicles present was one akin to a tractor-trailer. Cartwright highlighted the surreal sight of cargo dangling from the now-broken bridge, which is a key entrance point to Baltimore’s bustling harbor and leads directly to the Port of Baltimore, a cornerstone of the East Coast’s shipping industry.

Named after the author of the United States’ national anthem and inaugurated in 1977, the bridge’s failure was catastrophic. The ship’s collision with one of the bridge’s supports led to a rapid structural failure, causing the bridge to snap, buckle, and ultimately, collapse into the river below. This shocking sequence of events was captured on video and quickly disseminated across various social media platforms, drawing widespread attention.

The sight of the bridge’s collapse and the subsequent fire on the Dali, with black smoke billowing into the sky, left Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott in disbelief. He likened the devastation to a scene from an action movie, calling it “an unthinkable tragedy” that shook the community to its core.

In response to the crisis, Maryland Governor Wes Moore declared a state of emergency, emphasizing his commitment to mobilizing federal resources to aid in the city’s recovery. The FBI has also joined the array of agencies responding to the incident, underscoring the seriousness of the situation.

The Dali, under the management of Synergy Marine Group and flying the Singapore flag, was navigating under the control of two pilots at the time of the accident, around 1:30 a.m. The vessel, destined for Colombo, Sri Lanka, from Baltimore, measures an impressive 985 feet in length and 157 feet in width. Despite the extensive damage and ongoing danger, all crew members, including the pilots, were accounted for, with no injuries reported among them.

This tragedy echoes the 2001 incident when a freight train derailed in downtown Baltimore, igniting a massive fire that sent black smoke billowing into the sky and led to the temporary closure of the city’s major roadways. As Baltimore faces this new challenge, the community’s resilience is put to the test, with efforts focused on the search for survivors and unraveling the circumstances that led to this tragic event.

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