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regular-article-logo Wednesday, 17 July 2024

Indian Embassy in US condoles 'unfortunate accident' at Baltimore bridge; President Biden takes note of prompt action by ship's Indian crew

Officials said the Singapore-flagged ship 'Dali' suffered a 'power issue' and issued a distress call moments before the crash

PTI New York Published 27.03.24, 11:50 AM
Parts of the Francis Scott Key Bridge remain after a container ship collided with one of the bridge’s supports 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.

Parts of the Francis Scott Key Bridge remain after a container ship collided with one of the bridge’s supports 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/PTI

The Indian Embassy in the US has condoled the “unfortunate accident" in Baltimore where a cargo ship manned by a 22-member Indian crew, struck and demolished a key bridge, an accident that may have killed six people and brought one of the most important ports in the northeast US to a grinding halt.

Several vehicles were crossing Baltimore's Francis Scott Key Bridge, which is more than 2.6 km-long when it collapsed after the container ship collided with one of its supports Tuesday early morning. Officials said the Singapore-flagged ship 'Dali' suffered a "power issue" and issued a distress call moments before the crash.

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US President Joe Biden, in remarks at the White House, said the alert sent by the ship's crew before the collision saved lives.

“Personnel on board the ship were able to alert the Maryland Department of Transportation that they had lost control of their vessel…As a result, local authorities were able to close the bridge to traffic before the bridge was struck, which undoubtedly saved lives,” Biden said.

"Our heartfelt condolences to all affected by the unfortunate accident at the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore,” the Indian Embassy in the US said in a post on X.

It said that the Embassy has created a dedicated hotline for any Indian citizens who may be affected or require assistance due to the tragedy. The Embassy is ascertaining details regarding the vessel's crew.

Ship management company Synergy Marine Group said in a statement that the crew on Dali is “All Indian, 22 in total.” “All crew members, including the two pilots, have been accounted for and there are no reports of any injuries. There has also been no pollution,” it said.

“Owners and managers of the Singapore-flagged container ship “Dali” report that the vessel collided with one of the pillars of the Francis Scott Key Bridge, Baltimore whilst under pilotage with two pilots onboard, at approximately 01:30 local time on 26th March,” the Synergy Group said in a statement.

It further said that all crew members, including the two pilots, have been accounted for and there are no reports of any injuries. There has also been no pollution.

Some of the individuals missing after the collapse of Baltimore's Francis Scott Key Bridge are Mexican nationals, according to Rafael Laveaga, Chief of the Consular Section of Mexico's Embassy in Washington.

Two of the construction workers missing since the bridge collapse were from Guatemala, the country's foreign ministry said on Tuesday.

Construction crews were working on the bridge to repair potholes when the collision occurred. Two persons were rescued from the water, while six construction workers remained missing.

After an entire day of search and rescue operations, the US Coast Guard said it was suspending operations since it was unlikely the remaining workers would be found alive.

“Based on the length of time that has gone in this search, the extensive search efforts that we’ve put into it, the water temperature, that at this point we do not believe we are going to find any of these individuals still alive,” Rear Admiral Shannon Gilreath of the US Coast Guard said.

The Coast Guard suspended its active search and rescue efforts on Tuesday evening at 7:30 local time.

Authorities said that a mayday call by the vessel’s crew enabled officials to stop vehicular traffic from coming onto the bridge, “undoubtedly” saving many more lives.

President Biden said he was sending all the federal resources needed to respond to the emergency. We’re going to rebuild that port together,” he said.

He stressed that “everything so far indicates” that this was a terrible accident.

"At this time, we have no other indication -- no other reason to believe there was any intentional act here,” Biden said.

The vessel is owned by Grace Ocean Private Ltd and was outbound from Baltimore to Colombo and has a capacity of 10,000 TEU, with onboard units totalling 4,679 TEU. The vessel’s tons deadweight is 116,851 DWT.

Biden said the Port of Baltimore is one of the nation’s largest shipping hubs and it handled a record amount of cargo last year.

"It’s also the top port in America for both imports and exports of automobiles and light trucks,” Biden said, adding that around 850,000 vehicles go through that port every single year and 15,000 jobs depend on that port.

“And we’re going to do everything we can to protect those jobs and help those workers. The bridge is also critical to -- for travel, not just for Baltimore but for the Northeast Corridor,” the president said.

Over 30,000 vehicles cross the Francis Scott Key Bridge daily, one of the most important elements for the economy in the Northeast and the quality of life, he said.

“I’ve directed my team to move heaven and earth to reopen the port and rebuild the bridge as soon as humanly possible,” Biden said.

The bridge crosses over the Patapsco River and its construction was completed in 1977. The bridge has a traffic volume of 11.3 million vehicles. It is named after Francis Scott Key, the author of the US national anthem ‘Star Spangled Banner.’ United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Erek Barron said that there was no evidence to suggest that the collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore has any ties to terrorism.

Earlier in the day, Biden spoke with federal, state, and local officials as part of the ongoing response to the collapse of the bridge.

Maryland Governor Wes Moore also told reporters that the crew of the cargo ship alerted authorities about a “power issue” before the vessel collided with the bridge and this mayday call enabled workers to stop more vehicular traffic from coming onto the bridge.

“We can confirm that the crew notified authorities of a power issue,” Moore said.

Moore was asked if the crew on the ship alerted authorities about losing propulsion and was in trouble.

“Yes”, Moore said when asked if the crew had lost power on the ship.

“We do know that the investigation is currently going on. But I have to say I'm thankful for the folks who, once the warning came up and once notification came up that there was a mayday, who literally by being able to stop cars from coming over the bridge. These people are heroes, they saved lives last night,” he said.

“We are thankful that between the mayday and the collapse that we had officials who were able to begin to stop the flow of traffic so more cars were not up on the bridge,” he said.

Moore added that the preliminary investigation “points to an accident. We haven't seen any credible evidence of a terrorist attack.” Meanwhile, more than 1,000 US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) personnel will assist in the aftermath of the collapse of Baltimore's Francis Scott Key Bridge.

The team includes “engineering, construction, contracting and operations specialists” and will work with local, state, and federal agencies to remove the bridge and clear the federal shipping channel, a USACE news release said.

Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by The Telegraph Online staff and has been published from a syndicated feed.

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