Baltimore bridge collapse: death toll, Francis Scott Key Bridge news, Maryland USA map - and ship casualties

Here's everything we know about the Baltimore bridge collapse so far
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Early on Tuesday (26 March), a container ship struck a major bridge in Baltimore, Maryland, in the US, causing it to break in multiple places and fall into the river below.

James Wallace, the chief of the Baltimore fire department, has said that two people were pulled from the waters beneath the Francis Scott Key Bridge, one of whom was critically injured.

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Several vehicles fell into the icy waters, and rescuers were initially looking for at least seven people.

But what exactly happened? How many people have been affected by the events, and how important is the Francis Scott Key Bridge? Here is everything you need to know.

What happened?

Agencies reported receiving emergency calls around 1.30am reporting a vessel travelling outbound from Baltimore that had struck a column on the bridge, causing it to collapse.

The collision against one of the bridge's supports caused the roadway to break apart in several places and plunge into the water. The ship caught fire and thick, black smoke billowed out of it.

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Synergy Marine Group - which owns and manages the ship called the Dali - confirmed the vessel hit a pillar of the bridge at about 1:30am while it was in control of two pilots. Several vehicles were on the bridge at the time, including one the size of a tractor-trailer truck.

The container ship had lost power, and operators issued a mayday call moments before the crash that took down the bridge, enabling authorities to limit vehicle traffic on the span, Maryland governor Wes Moore said.

From a vantage point near the entrance to the bridge, jagged remnants of its steel frame were visible protruding from the water, with the on-ramp ending abruptly where the span once began.

Brandon Scott, mayor of Baltimore, which is in the state of Maryland, said: “Never would you think that you would see, physically see, the Key Bridge tumble down like that.

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“It looked like something out of an action movie,” Scott said, calling it “an unthinkable tragedy”.

The steel frame of the Francis Scott Key Bridge sits on top of the container ship Dali after the bridge collapsed (Photo: ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP via Getty Images)The steel frame of the Francis Scott Key Bridge sits on top of the container ship Dali after the bridge collapsed (Photo: ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP via Getty Images)
The steel frame of the Francis Scott Key Bridge sits on top of the container ship Dali after the bridge collapsed (Photo: ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP via Getty Images)

What is the Francis Scott Key Bridge?

The collapse is sure to create a logistical nightmare for months, if not years, for the East Coast, shutting down ship traffic at the Port of Baltimore - the largest in the US for specialised cargo - and snarling cargo and commuter traffic.

Thankfully, the bridge came down in the middle of night when traffic would be lighter than during the day, when thousands of cars traverse the span.

The Francis Scott Key Bridge, commonly referred to as the Key Bridge, is a prominent landmark in Baltimore, spanning the Patapsco River and connecting the neighbourhoods of Locust Point and Federal Hill.

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It was constructed between 1972 and 1977 at an estimated cost of $110 million (£87 million), and was designed by the engineering firm of J.E. Greiner Company. It is named after Francis Scott Key, the author of 'The Star-Spangled Banner,' who was from Maryland.

The Key Bridge serves as a critical transportation link for commuters and freight traffic in the Baltimore area, providing a direct route across the Patapsco River. It connects Interstate 695, the Baltimore Beltway, with Interstate 95, two major highways in the region.

Its collapse is likely to have significant ramifications for commuters, businesses and logistics both locally, and potentially worldwide.

Locally, it would disrupt the flow of traffic between Baltimore and its surrounding areas, leading to increased congestion on alternate routes and longer commute times.

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The bridge's collapse could also impact national and global supply chains, as it serves as a crucial artery for the transportation of goods along the East Coast of the United States.

The collapse has blocked maritime access to the Port of Baltimore - which handled $80 billion (£63 billion) worth of cargo in 2023 - and trapped several vessels inside the harbour.

Maryland Transportation Secretary Paul Wiedefeld said all vessel traffic into and out of the port would be suspended until further notice, though the facility was still open to trucks.

Vehicle traffic is still able to cross the river via the Fort McHenry and Baltimore Harbor tunnels, although vehicles carrying hazardous loads are not permitted.

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Maryland Governor Wes Moore has said the bridge will be rebuilt "in a way that remembers the people this tragedy has impacted, and honours the community it serves"

(Image: PA Wire)(Image: PA Wire)
(Image: PA Wire)

How many people are involved?

Fire chief James Wallace said authorities “may be looking for upwards of seven people” but said that number could change. It was not clear if the two rescued were included in the seven.

Earlier, Kevin Cartwright, director of communications for the Baltimore Fire Department, told The Associated Press: “This is a dire emergency.”

He called the collapse a “developing mass casualty event”, though he didn’t know at the time how many people were affected.

Has anyone died?

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At the time of writing, no deaths in relation to the bridge collapse incident have been confirmed.

However, authorities said a crew of unknown size was working on the bridge at the time of the collapse and that sonar had detected cars in the water, which is about 50ft (15m) deep.

The temperature in the water was about 47F (8C) in the early hours of Tuesday, according to a buoy that collects data for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Synergy Marine Group has confirmed that all crew members onboard the Dali, including the pilots, were accounted for and there were no reports of any injuries.

What is Synergy Marine Group?

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Synergy Marine Group is a global ship management company headquartered in Singapore with offices and operations worldwide.

It provides a range of services for the maritime industry, including crew management, technical management, commercial management, and consultancy services for various types of vessels, including tankers, bulk carriers, container ships, and offshore vessels.

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