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Baltimore bridge response shifts to recovery of six missing

A view of the Dali cargo vessel which crashed into the Francis Scott Key Bridge causing it to collapse in Baltimore, Maryland, U.S. — Reuters
A view of the Dali cargo vessel which crashed into the Francis Scott Key Bridge causing it to collapse in Baltimore, Maryland, U.S. — Reuters

BALTIMORE: Authorities in Baltimore were set to focus on expanding recovery efforts Wednesday after a cargo ship slammed into a major bridge, causing it to collapse and leaving six people presumed dead.

All six were members of a construction crew repairing potholes on the Francis Scott Key Bridge in the US East Coast city when the structure was sent careening into the Patapsco River at around 1:30 am.

A desperate search in near-freezing conditions managed to pull two people from the choppy waters, but after nearly 16 hours, officials said they had given up hope of rescuing the others.

"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 reporters as night fell on Tuesday.

He added that responders were transitioning "to a different phase."

Speaking at the same press conference, Maryland Secretary of State Police Roland Butler said the focus would shift to a "recovery operation" by Wednesday morning.

"We're hoping to put divers in the water and begin a more detailed search to do our very best to recover those six missing people," he said.

After the search effort was called off, Mayor Brandon Scott emphasized the need to help families of the victims "get the closure they deserve."

"My heart is with those families tonight and in the days ahead," he said in a statement.

One of the missing workers was father-of-three Miguel Luna, according to Casa, a nonprofit that serves immigrant communities.

Two of the other missing workers were from Guatemala, the country's foreign ministry said, while local news outlet The Baltimore Banner reported that Mexican and Honduran nationals were also among the victims.

Officials stressed that there was no known connection to terrorism, and that the preliminary investigation indicated an accident.

Details emerged on how the crew tried to avert disaster after their 985-foot ship lost power and began careening toward the bridge.

"Just prior to the incident, the vessel, Dali, had experienced momentary loss of propulsion. As a result, it was unable to maintain the desired heading," said the maritime authority for Singapore, where the Dali is flagged.

The authority said the ship's management company, Synergy Marine Pte Ltd, reported the crew "dropped anchors" in a last-ditch attempt to hold it back. — AFP

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