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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

6 people are missing after Baltimore bridge collapse

An aerial view of the cargo ship that hit the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore, Md. on Tuesday, March 26, 2024. Six construction workers who had been fixing potholes on the Francis Scott Key Bridge remained missing on Tuesday afternoon as divers and other emergency workers on boats and helicopters searched for them. The National Transportation Safety Board, which is leading the inquiry, said its investigators were holding back while the search continued. (Erin Schaff/The New York Times)

By Michael D. Shear, Luke Broadwater, Jenny Gross and Patricia Mazzei

A massive cargo ship leaving the Port of Baltimore lost power and issued a mayday call shortly before striking a major bridge early Tuesday, giving officials a brief chance to stop cars and try to evacuate the span before it fell into the river.

By Tuesday morning, six construction workers who had been fixing potholes on the Francis Scott Key Bridge remained missing as divers and other emergency workers on boats and helicopters continued to search for them. Two others had been rescued.

Gov. Wes Moore of Maryland called the episode a terrible accident. “We haven’t seen any credible evidence of a terrorist attack,” he said. The bridge is part of Interstate 695.

Initially, officials feared that drivers were submerged in their cars in the Patapsco River. But the warning from the Dali, a Singapore-flagged vessel, gave officials enough time to stop traffic at both ends of the bridge, according to several federal and Maryland officials.

The people who blocked traffic “undoubtedly saved lives,” President Joe Biden said from the White House on Tuesday. He added that the Coast Guard would continue search-and-rescue efforts and that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers would clear the channel to help reopen Baltimore to ship traffic. “We’re going to rebuild that port together,” he said.

Here are more details:

— Moore declared a state of emergency and said his office was in close communication with Pete Buttigieg, the U.S. transportation secretary. The National Transportation Safety Board said it was investigating.

— Despite the ship’s mayday call, the road repair crew remained on the bridge, with its vehicles parked on the span, authorities said. One of the two rescued construction workers was in the hospital Tuesday morning.

— The Dali, a 948-foot-long cargo vessel, hit a pillar of the bridge around 1:30 a.m., the ship’s owners said. All crew members, including two harbor pilots who were directing the vessel at the time of the crash, were accounted for, and there were no injuries on the ship, the owners said.

— The Dali had left Baltimore at 1 a.m. and was bound for Colombo, Sri Lanka, according to MarineTraffic, a maritime data platform.

— An inspection of the Dali last year at a port in Chile reported that the vessel had a deficiency related to “propulsion and auxiliary machinery.” The inspection, conducted on June 27 at the port of San Antonio, specified that the deficiency concerned gauges and thermometers. A spokesperson for the Dali’s owners declined to comment on the report.

— The bridge was named for Francis Scott Key, the Maryland-born author of the American national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner.” The structure opened in 1977. Some 30,000 commuters drive on it each day, Maryland officials said.

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