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Baltimore Key Bridge collapse: All we know about the ship crash and victims

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Francis Scott Key Bridge collapses after a container ship smashes into the four-lane span, plunging cars into the river.

The Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore, Maryland, has collapsed after a ship hit one of its support columns, and officials say at least eight people and several vehicles have fallen into the water.

Here is what we know:

What happened in Baltimore and when?

  • About 1:27am (05:27 GMT) on Tuesday, a container ship collided with one of the pillars supporting the Francis Scott Key Bridge in the city on the East Coast of the United States. Cars using the bridge fell into the Patapsco River, and at least seven people are feared to remain in the chilly water.
  • The ship, named the Dali, is 300 metres (984ft) long. The Singapore-registered vessel left Baltimore at 1am (05:00GMT) and was heading for Colombo, Sri Lanka. It was supposed to arrive in Colombo on April 22.
  • Dali was chartered by the Danish shipping company Maersk.
  • According to a report by ABC News, the ship “lost propulsion” as it was leaving port, and its crew notified Maryland officials they had lost control of the vessel. The report cited an unclassified US intelligence report.
  • Local pilots, not the crew, were guiding the ship at the time of the accident, according to Maryland Transportation Secretary Paul Wiedefeld. These pilots are trained to avoid accidents like the one on Tuesday.
  • Authorities said all 22 crew members on the Dali and the two pilots have been accounted for and there were no reports of injuries.
A view of the Dali cargo vessel which crashed into the Francis Scott Key Bridge causing it to collapse in Baltimore
A view of the Dali cargo vessel after it hit a support pillar on the bridge [Julia Nikhinson/Reuters]

Where did it happen?

  • The 2.6km (1.6-mile), four-lane bridge — named after the man who wrote the words of the Star Spangled Banner, the US national anthem — spans the Patapsco River just southeast of central Baltimore.
  • It is a major part of the road network around Baltimore, an industrial city northeast of the US capital, Washington, DC.
  • The bridge carried more than 12 million commercial and passenger vehicles in 2023.
  • Baltimore’s port handles farm and construction machinery, sugar, gypsum and coal as well as imports and exports for major automakers, including Nissan, Toyota, General Motors, Volvo, Jaguar and Land Rover.
  • The bridge collapse “will create significant problems on the US East Coast for US importers and exporters”, said Lars Jensen, a container ship expert.

What do we know about the people on the bridge?

  • According to authorities eight people were on the bridge at the time of the collision and six remain unaccounted for. The six people still unaccounted for were part of a construction crew filling potholes on the bridge.
  • Kevin Cartwright, the spokesperson for the Baltimore City Fire Department, said “numerous vehicles and possibly a tractor-trailer … went into the river.”
  • “This is a mass-casualty, multiagency event,” he said. “This operation is going to extend for many days.”
  • Two people have been saved from the water so far, Baltimore Fire Department Chief James Wallace said.
  • The water in Baltimore Harbor is about 9 degrees Celsius (48 degrees Fahrenheit), which makes the rescue operations urgent.
  • According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, hypothermia is possible in any water temperature below 21C (70F).
  • According to the University of Minnesota, at water temperatures Baltimore is experiencing, a person can lose “coordinated hand and finger movements in less than 5 minutes, lose consciousness in 30 to 60 minutes, and can likely swim only 7 to 40 minutes before exhaustion and die 1 to 3 hours even with flotation”.

Is it safe now? What is the latest on the ground?

  • Maryland Governor Wes Moore declared a state of emergency. US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said “rescue efforts remain under way and drivers in the Baltimore area should follow local responder guidance on detours and response.”
  • More than 40 ships remained inside Baltimore’s port – including small cargo ships, tugboats and pleasure craft – data from the ship-tracking and maritime analytics provider MarineTraffic showed.
  • The Federal Aviation Administration is restricting aircraft from flying over the wreckage of the bridge.
  • Wallace said emergency services are using sonar, drones and infrared technology as a part of their search for people and vehicles who may have fallen into the Patapsco River.
  • “Our sonar has detected the presence of vehicles submerged in the water,” Wallace said at a news conference. “I don’t have a count of that yet.”
  • Currently, the vessel is holding onto its position at the collision site and is in a stable condition.

Drone pilots: The FAA has flight restrictions in place around the Francis Scott Key Bridge collapse. Do not interfere with rescue operations. If you fly, emergency response operations cannot. https://t.co/AXVbkrrk82 #NoDroneZone pic.twitter.com/mRFTxw1r96

— The FAA ✈️ (@FAANews) March 26, 2024

What happens next?

  • President Joe Biden, speaking from the White House, promised the nation a large federal response to the collapse, emphasising that there was no evidence suggesting it was a deliberate act.
  • In the Port, the traffic was suspended until further notice, Maryland transportation authorities said.
  • The collapse is almost sure to create a logistical nightmare for months, if not years, along the East Coast, shutting down ship traffic at the Port of Baltimore and snarling cargo and commuter traffic.
  • “Losing this bridge will devastate the entire area, as well as the entire East Coast,” state Senator Johnny Ray Salling said. Highway signs as far south as Virginia warned drivers of delays associated with the closure of the bridge.
  • “The low tide is approximately two hours away. That would be the optimal time in terms of search and rescue.” Al Jazeera’s Mike Hanna reporting from Baltimore said. “After that, you start having the tide coming in again, which will once again make conditions much more difficult.”
Biden
President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the Francis Scott Key bridge collapse in the Roosevelt Room of the White House [Evan Vucci/AP]

What have been the reactions so far?

  • “This is a tragedy that you can never imagine,” Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott said. He said the video of the collapse “looked like something out of an action movie” and asked for people to keep their focus on the rescue efforts and the relatives of anyone missing.

Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott:

“Never would you think that you would see, physically see the Key Bridge tumble down like that. It looked like something out of an action movie.” pic.twitter.com/NtgVZ613BB

— Citizen Free Press (@CitizenFreePres) March 26, 2024

  • “Our hearts go out to the families of those who remain missing as a result of this horrific incident,” the White House said. It also said President Joe Biden’s administration was in touch with the governor of Maryland and mayor of Baltimore to offer any federal assistance they need.
  • The Dali was chartered by the shipping company Maersk 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,” it said.
  • “We are closely following the investigations conducted by authorities, … and we will do our utmost to keep our customers informed,” Maersk said.
  • There are “no indications” the collision of the ship was an intentional act, US Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas wrote on X.

The @USCG was on the scene along with our state and local partners and is actively involved in search and rescue operations this morning. There are no indications this was an intentional act and we are assessing the impacts to the Port of Baltimore. (2/2)

— Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas (@SecMayorkas) March 26, 2024

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Al Jazeera and news agencies

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‘Obvious’ Sydney mall killer targeted women, Australian police say

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New South Wales Police commissioner says videos of the attack ‘speak for themselves’.

Australian police have said they believe a man who fatally six stabbed people at a busy Sydney shopping centre specifically targeted women.

Five women and one man were killed on Saturday when a 40-year-old man went on a stabbing spree in the beach suburb of Bondi.

The women killed in the attack were identified as a 55-year-old designer, a 47-year-old architect and volunteer surf lifesaver, the 25-year-old daughter of an entrepreneur, a 27-year-old student from China and a 38-year-old new mother.

A 30-year-old Pakistani security guard, who reportedly tried to stop the attacker, was the only man killed in the attack.

The majority of those injured in the attack were also women.

New South Wales state Police Commissioner Karen Webb said on Monday that it was “obvious” the suspected attacker, Joel Cauchi, singled out women.

“It’s obvious to me, it’s obvious to detectives that seems to be an area of interest that the offender focused on women and avoided the men,” Webb told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC).

“The videos speak for themselves, don’t they? That’s certainly a line for inquiry for us.”

Webb said officers were in the process of interviewing people close to Cauchi to gain “some insight into what he might have been thinking”.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said the gender breakdown of the victims was “concerning”.

“The gender breakdown is of course concerning – each and every victim here is mourned,” he told ABC radio.

Videos shared on social media showed Cauchi, wearing shorts and an Australian national rugby league jersey, targeting mostly female victims as he rampaged through Westfield Bondi Junction shopping complex.

The attack was brought to an end when police inspector Amy Scott shot him dead.

Australia’s national flag has been set at half-mast at major venues, including the Parliament House and Sydney’s Harbour Bridge, in honour of the victims.

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Al Jazeera and news agencies

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US military says it destroyed dozens of drones fired from Iran, Yemen

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US Central Command says it hit more than 80 one-way attack drones aimed at Israel.

The United States has destroyed dozens of drones and at least six ballistic missiles aimed at Israel from Iran and Yemen, its military has said.

US forces hit more than 80 one-way attack drones, including seven UAVs targeted on the ground prior to launch, US Central Command (CENTCOM) said on Monday.

“Iran’s continued unprecedented, malign, and reckless behaviour endangers regional stability and the safety of U.S. and coalition forces,” CENTCOM said in a post on X

“CENTCOM remains postured to support Israel’s defense against these dangerous actions by Iran. We will continue to work with all our regional partners to increase regional security.”

CENTCOM made the announcement after Iran late on Saturday launched its first-ever attack on Israeli territory in retaliation for a suspected Israeli attack on its embassy in Syria.

The attack involving more than 300 drones and missiles caused only modest damage as most were shot down by Israel’s Iron Dome missile defence system or the US and its partners.

Defense of Israel Activities Update

On April 13 and the morning of April 14, U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) forces, supported by U.S. European Command destroyers, successfully engaged and destroyed more than 80 one-way attack uncrewed aerial vehicles (OWA UAV) and at least six… pic.twitter.com/QYyk01o1Vs

— U.S. Central Command (@CENTCOM) April 14, 2024

US President Joe Biden earlier praised US forces for their “extraordinary skill” in helping Israel take down “nearly all of the incoming drones and missiles.”

Biden described US support for Israel’s self-defence as “ironclad” but warned that Washington would not join any retaliatory action taken by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government against Tehran.

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said US forces “remain postured to protect US troops and partners in the region, provide further support for Israel’s defence, and enhance regional stability.”

The threat of all-out war between Israel and Iran has put the region on tenterhooks, prompting calls for restraint from Middle Eastern neighbours and major powers.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Sunday warned that the Middle East was on “the brink”.

“The people of the region are confronting a real danger of a devastating full-scale conflict. Now is the time to defuse and de-escalate,” Guterres told a UN Security Council meeting convened in response to the Iranian attack.

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Al Jazeera and news agencies

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Iran claims ‘right to self-defence’ in Israel attack

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Video Duration 01 minutes 24 seconds

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Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations says his country’s drone and missile attack against Israel was ‘in the exercise of Iran’s inherent right to self-defence’. Saeid Iravani told the UN Security Council Iran is not seeking to escalate conflict in the region.

Published On 15 Apr 2024

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