Search for survivors after bridge collapse

Henry

A search is underway for at least six people who are believed to have ended up in the water when the Francis Scott Key Bridge collapsed into the Patapsco River in the early hours of Tuesday morning (US time) after a cargo ship collided with it.

Officials say the temperature of the water was around 9˚°C when the bridge gave way. It is spring in the USA, but still cold and the temperature complicates rescue teams’ search at this stage, reports BBC.

According to Paul Wiedefeld, secretary of transportation in the state of Maryland, several contractors were working on the bridge at the time of the collapse.

Wiedefeld says there are currently no confirmed deaths. He also says it is too early in the investigation to know exactly what caused the collapse.

James Wallace, the local fire chief, said by sunrise that several people ended up in the water. Two of them were already rescued from the water at that stage. One of the victims was taken to a hospital in a serious condition, while the other refused treatment.

However, Wallace indicated that at that stage the rescue services still had a large area, including the river bottom and the deck of the cargo ship, to comb for any possible survivors.

Wallace also said there is “absolutely no indication that this is terrorism”.

Data shows that the Dali cargo ship left the port of Baltimore at 00:44 US time before it veered off course and struck a bridge column at 01:30.

RNews earlier reported that the vessel is 300 m long and was on its way to Colombo in Sri Lanka at the time of the incident.

The full length of the bridge gave way shortly afterwards and plunged into the water.

Traffic on the I-695 highway, of which the bridge is a part, has since been diverted while rescue efforts continue.

Vessel traffic in and out of the Port of Baltimore – with the exception of trucks – has been suspended.

AFP reports that the Francis Scott Key Bridge, named after the poet who wrote the lyrics to the US national anthem, carried an average of 31,000 passengers a day across one of the busiest ports in the United States before Tuesday’s collapse.

Baltimore is the ninth busiest major US port in terms of foreign cargo handling and foreign cargo value. The port processes the largest volume of cars and light trucks in the US, as well as the largest quantities of imported sugar.

It is now feared that the collapse will cause significant economic damage.