'Mass Casualty Event': 1.6 Mile Baltimore Bridge Collapses After Being Struck by Cargo Ship

The major Beltway Bridge over the Patapsco River has collapsed after being hit by a large cargo ship, sending vehicles travelling on the bridge tumbling into the water.

A four-lane bridge carrying the Interstate-695 over the mouth of Baltimore harbour collapsed in the early hours of Tuesday morning, around 0130 EST (0530GMT). Baltimore Mayor Brandon M. Scott has said he is aware of an “incident at the Key Bridge” and that emergency services are on scene.

UPDATE 1315EST — While rescue continues, economic impact looms

Apologies, the content of the previous update appears to have been lost somehow. To summarise:

Beyond the very real human tragedy that unfolded in Baltimore harbour this morning, there are weeks and months of economic pain ahead from losing one of the United States’ biggest ports for however long it takes to clear the waterway. To be clear, depending on how seriously this is taken it could take weeks or even months, although a massive effort between the military and private experts to clear the waterway is not beyond the possible.

These delays, these costs — it is all potentially inflationary. As reported by Breitbart News’s economics expert John Carney:

The closure of the port could create serious supply chain disruptions for both consumer goods and industrial imports that go into goods manufactured in the U.S. It’s unlikely that all of the lost capacity will be able to be absorbed by the other ports on the Eastern seaboard of the U.S.

This raises the danger of additional inflation in the U.S. Inflation has fallen from the very high levels seen in the first two years of the Biden administration but remains elevated by historical standards and above levels the Federal Reserve considers appropriate for a healthy economy.

Read more here. 

UPDATE 1200EST — Not terrorism, FBI thinks. City managed to stop cars driving onto bridge at last minute

We’ve had the press conference from the Maryland governor and others on the situation in Baltimore, and it is a mixed picture. Eight people are thought to have fallen into the river at the time of impact from a city construction crew who were repairing potholes, but only two of them have been recovered so far. On the upside, the Governor says there was time between a distress call from the ship and it striking the piles to close traffic to the bridge. This may have been a matter of seconds.

The governor has praised those who closed the bridge at such short notice as “heroes”. Read all about it here.

Also speaking was the local FBI representative who says so far it appears this was not a terrorist attack. The latest on that here. Baltimore police appear to concur, and have also said there is “absolutely no indication” that the collision was deliberate.

Boats move near a container ship as it rests against wreckage of the Francis Scott Key Bridge on Tuesday, March 26, 2024, as seen from Dundalk, Md. The ship rammed into the major bridge in Baltimore early Tuesday, causing it to collapse in a matter of seconds and creating a terrifying scene as several vehicles plunged into the chilly river below. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

UPDATE 0915EST — Ship ‘lost propulsion’ 

As reported at length earlier, it was clear there were serious problems aboard the MV Dali in the minutes before it collided with the Beltway Bridge, with onboard power going out four minutes before impact, plunging the ship into darkness. Now the BBC notes “an unclassified memo” from the U.S. Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) states it has confirmed the ship “lost propulsion” before hitting the bridge.

So evidently the ship was, as nautical parlance has it, ‘not under command’, meaning “at the mercy of winds and seas” — and in this case, inertia. What we do not know is whether this state of having “lost propulsion” means the engine ceased to function, or if the coupling taking the energy from the engine to the propeller was damaged. In either case the ship was disabled at a critical moment and in a critical place and collided with enormous force.

A bridge engineer speaking to Breitbart News today said the bridge suffered a “catastrophic failure” after being struck but this isn’t exactly the fault of the bridge. The amount of energy embodied in a moving container ship weighing over 110,000 tons full laden is enormous and fortifying a large bridge against that kind of impact is essentially beyond what material science is capable of.

The search for survivors continues, but the cold water presents a serious challenge. One person in in hospital and two others are said by the Baltimore fire department to have been rescued. Up to a dozen others — mainly from the road repair crew working on the bridge at the time of the strike — may still be in the water.

In this aerial image, the steel frame of the Francis Scott Key Bridge sits on top of a container ship after the bridge collapsed, Baltimore, Maryland, on March 26, 2024. The bridge collapsed early March 26 after being struck by the Singapore-flagged Dali container ship, sending multiple vehicles and people plunging into the frigid harbor below. There was no immediate confirmation of the cause of the disaster, but Baltimore’s Police Commissioner Richard Worley said there was “no indication” of terrorism. (Photo by Jim WATSON / AFP) (Photo by JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)

Parts of the Francis Scott Key Bridge remain after a container ship collided with a support Tuesday, March 26, 2024 in Baltimore. The major bridge in Baltimore snapped and collapsed after a container ship rammed into it early Tuesday, and several vehicles fell into the river below. Rescuers were searching for multiple people in the water. (AP Photo/Steve Ruark)

MARCH 26, 2024: Baltimore’s Francis Scott Key Bridge collapsed on March 26, 2024, after a support column was struck by a vessel. (Jerry Jackson/The Baltimore Sun/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)

Baltimore’s Francis Scott Key Bridge collapsed early Tuesday March 26, 2024, after a support column was struck by a vessel. Jerry Jackson/The Baltimore Sun/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)

UPDATE 0800EST — Pictures from the scene

While we’ve had livestream footage from the scene all morning, photographers have been slow to get a view of the damage at the mouth of the Port of Baltimore. Here are the best so far, illustrating the enormous level of damage caused, blocking the river.

The steel frame of the Francis Scott Key Bridge sits on top of a container ship as a helicopter makes a pass after the bridge collapsed in Baltimore, Maryland, on March 26, 2024.  (Photo by ROBERTO SCHMIDT / AFP) (Photo by ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP via Getty Images)

(Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Photographer: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

(Photo by JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)

A section of the roadway still stands after the collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge after it was struck by a container ship, in Baltimore, Maryland, on March 26, 2024. The collapsed sent multiple vehicles and up to 20 people plunging into the harbor below. “Unfortunately, we understand that there were up to 20 individuals who may be in the Patapsco River right now as well as multiple vehicles,” Kevin Cartwright of the Baltimore Fire Department told CNN. Ship monitoring website MarineTraffic showed a Singapore-flagged container ship called the Dali stopped under the bridge. (Photo by Mandel NGAN / AFP) (Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)

The original story continues below

The Baltimore Fire Department says the collision, which saw several vehicles which were travelling on the bridge plunge into the Patapsco River, is a ” developing mass casualty event”. Department director of communications Kevin Cartwright told the Associated Press: “This is a dire emergency… Our focus right now is trying to rescue and recover these people.”

The crew of the ship and the two pilots aboard — port authority professional navigators who help bring large ships in and out safely — are unharmed.

Livestream footage of the river shows a large container ship, identified as the Singapore-flagged container ship MV Dali, striking head-on one of the piers supporting the central span of the bridge. This immediately brings down that central span and the southward span towards Fort Armistead. Just a moment later, the northward span, left unbalanced by the loss of the centre, also collapses.

Realtime marine traffic data from the port of Baltimore shows the MV Dali is still broadcasting by its automatic identification system transceiver that it is “underway using engine”, which may indicate if a machinery failure caused the ship to drift out of the channel and into the bridge piles, it was not detected by onboard systems which are supposed to be automatic. Several rescue craft including Baltimore Fire Department boats are around the bridge.

A livestream video provided by local businesses and hosted on YouTube seen by Breitbart London shows the lead-up to the collision and the moment of impact. Amber flashing beacons on the central span of the bridge show what is reported to be construction crews working on the structure late into the night, while light traffic including cars and tractor-trailer trucks cross on the open lanes.

The Francis Scott Key Bridge in 2009 / Jeff Covey / Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license

In a strike of blind luck, the moment the ship hits the bridge and it collapses, passing traffic appears to be very light compared to the number of cars and trucks present on the bridge just minutes earlier.

The MV Dali approaches from the north-east but approximately four minutes and 20 seconds before impact all lights aboard the ship go out, a clear indication of a total onboard loss of power. One minute and ten seconds after this visual indication that all is not well onboard some lights are restored, and they continue to turn on and off to varying degrees until the collision.

During these last minutes, the MV Dali turns sharply — particularly for a ship of its size — to starboard, putting it on course for the bridge support. From three minutes until impact until the strike a very large plume of thick, dark smoke appears to pour from the ship’s chimney, indicative of either the engine working very hard or a fire onboard. In the case of the crew being aware of the imminent disaster and attempting to prevent the collision, the volume of smoke would likely mean failed engines being restarted or — if already running after the total electrical failure — the engines being put under a high load to slow the ship down.

The potential disruption from this incident is potentially enormous. Quite apart from the severing of the I-695 across the Patapsco River — several other bridges cross further upstream, at the risk of carrying more traffic through the city itself — the port of Baltimore will likely be blocked for an extended period while the wreckage of the large bridge in the dredged channel capable of taking large ship traffic is cleared.

Per a February local news report, the Port of Baltimore set new records in the amount of cargo it was handling, amounting to some 52.3 million tons of foreign cargo imported at a value of $80.8 billion. The port is large enough to handle the largest container ships in the world, including the Evergreen A-class.

The MV Dali, which struck the Baltimore bridge today, carries an equivalent of of 9,962 twenty-foot shipping containers, which the port handled 1.1 million of last year. The port is also a major centre for the car industry, and handled 847,158 cars and light trucks in 2023, which was said to be “more cars and light trucks than any other U.S. port for 13 consecutive years”.

ANKARA, TURKIYE – MARCH 26: An infographic titled “Key Bridge in Baltimore collapses after large vessel collision” in Ankara, Turkiye on March 26, 2024. Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore collapsed after it was struck by a large vessel. (Photo by Yasin Demirci/Anadolu via Getty Images)

This story is developing and more follows 


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