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Why did the Baltimore Bridge collapse and what do we know about the ship?

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Baltimore's Francis Scott Key Bridge collapsed early on Tuesday after a container ship smashed into a pylon, with the six people missing presumed dead after falling into the frigid water below.


Authorities stopped people from using the bridge after the ship sent out a mayday call, which Maryland's governor said saved lives.


It may be some time before one of the busiest ports on the US Eastern Seaboard can reopen.


A drone view of the Dali cargo vessel, which crashed into the Francis Scott Key Bridge causing it to collapse
A drone view of the Dali cargo vessel, which crashed into the Francis Scott Key Bridge causing it to collapse


WHAT HAPPENED IN BALTIMORE?


Shortly after 1 a.m. ET (0500 GMT), a container ship named the Dali was sailing down the Patapsco River on its way to Sri Lanka.


At 1:24 a.m., it suffered a total power failure and all its lights went out.


Three minutes later, at 1:27 a.m., the container ship struck a pylon of the bridge, crumpling almost the entire structure into the water.


The bridge was up to code and there were no known structural issues, Maryland Governor Wes Moore said. There was no indication of terrorism, police said.


WHY DID THE BRIDGE COLLAPSE?



The metal truss-style bridge has a suspended deck, a design that contributed to its collapse, engineers say. The ship appeared to hit a main concrete pier, which rests on soil underwater and is part of the foundation.


ARE THERE ANY CASUALTIES?


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Six people are missing and presumed dead, Maryland state police said. Two people were rescued, one unharmed and one critically injured. A construction crew was fixing potholes on the bridge and eight people fell 185 feet (56 meters) into the river where water temperatures were 47 F (8 C). According to research for the Federal Aviation Administration, that is the upper limit of what a human could survive falling into the water. Authorities saved lives by stopping vehicles from using the bridge after the ship sent out a mayday call, the Maryland governor said. The ship also dropped its anchors to try to avoid the collision.


WHAT DO WE KNOW ABOUT THE SHIP THAT WAS INVOLVED?


The Dali was leaving Baltimore en route to Colombo, Sri Lanka. All 22 crew, including two pilots on board, have been accounted for and there were no injuries, the ship's manager, Synergy Marine Group said. The registered owner of the Singapore-flagged ship is Grace Ocean Pte Ltd, LSEG data show. The ship measures 948 feet (289 meters) - as long as three football fields placed end to end - and was stacked high with containers.


The ship can hold up to 10,000 twenty-foot equivalent unit, or TEU, a measure of cargo capacity. It was carrying 4,679 TEU. The same ship was involved in an incident in the port of Antwerp, Belgium, in 2016, when it hit a quay as it tried to exit the North Sea container terminal. A later inspection in June 2023 carried out in San Antonio in Chile found the vessel had "propulsion and auxiliary machinery" deficiencies, according to data on the public Equasis website, which provides information on ships.


WHAT DO WE KNOW ABOUT THE BRIDGE THAT COLLAPSED?


The Francis Scott Key Bridge was one of three ways to cross the Baltimore Harbor and handled 31,000 cars per day or 11.3 million vehicles a year. The steel structure is four lanes wide and sits 185 feet (56 meters) above the river. It opened in 1977 and crosses the Patapsco River, where U.S. national anthem author Francis Scott Key wrote the "Star Spangled Banner" in 1814 after witnessing the British defeat at the Battle of Baltimore and the British bombing of Fort McHenry.


HOW WILL THE BRIDGE COLLAPSE IMPACT THE BALTIMORE PORT?


Traffic was suspended at the port after the collision. It is one of the smallest container ports on the Northeastern seaboard, handling about a tenth of the volume that passes through the Port of New York and New Jersey. The flow of containers to Baltimore can likely be redistributed to bigger ports, said container shipping expert Lars Jensen.


However, there could be major disruptions in shipping cars, coal, and sugar.


It is the busiest U.S. port for car shipments, handling at least 750,000 vehicles in 2023, according to data from the Maryland Port Administration. In 2023, the port was the second busiest for coal exports. It is also the largest U.S. port by volume for handling farm and construction machinery, as well as agricultural products such as sugar and salt.


Authorities on Tuesday suspended their search for six people missing after a packed cargo ship slammed into a Baltimore bridge, causing it to collapse and blocking one of the busiest US commercial harbors.


"Based on the length of time that we've gone in this search, the extensive search efforts that we put into it, the water temperature... at this point, we do not believe that we're going to find any of these individuals still alive," US Coast Guard Rear Admiral Shannon Gilreath told a press conference as night fell.


The Francis Scott Key Bridge, named after the poet who penned the lyrics to the US national anthem, is an important link in the East Coast highway system, used by about 34,000 vehicles every day. There are other bridges and tunnels for drivers to cross the harbor. However, the tangled steel barrier now lying half-submerged across the harbor entrance blocks almost all maritime traffic.


Singapore


Singapore's port authority said Wednesday that a cargo ship that slammed into a Baltimore bridge, causing it to collapse and block one of the busiest US commercial harbors, had passed two overseas inspections in 2023.


"The vessel's required classification society and statutory certificates covering the structural integrity of the vessel and functionality of the vessel's equipment, were valid at the time of the incident," the port authority said. It added that a faulty monitor gauge for fuel pressure was rectified in June. Late Tuesday, the port authority said its investigators and those from the Transport Safety Investigation Bureau were heading to Baltimore, offering assistance to the US Coast Guard. The Singapore-flagged ship had "experienced a momentary loss of propulsion" just before it ran into the Francis Scott Key Bridge, which collapsed and blocked the commercial harbour.


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