Bridge Collapses in Major East Coast Harbor. Mass Casualties. Water Search Active.

The Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore has dramatically collapsed after a cargo ship collided with it. Baltimore City Fire Department has called it a “developing mass casualty event”. No one yet knows what caused this vessel to get it so spectacularly wrong. Human error, engine or steering malfunction, deliberate sabotage? The current response to an internal malfunction is to drop anchor.

The Francis Scott Key Bridge is an enormous steel structure which carries the Interstate 695 over the Patapsco River southeast of the Baltimore metropolitan area. Earlier this morning, emergency responders were searching for at least seven people believed to be in the water, according to Kevin Cartwright, director of communications for the Baltimore fire department.

Matthew West, a petty officer first class for the coastguard in Baltimore, told the New York Times that the coastguard received a report of an impact at 1.27am ET. West said the Dali, a 948ft (29-metre) Singapore-flagged cargo ship, had hit the bridge, which is part of Interstate 695. The Dali is a modern ship and should have been well aware of the bridge structure. As the footage confirms there was perfect visibility and the ship’s bridge should have eye contact as well as instrument readings to confirm their position in relation to the Key Bridge support.

The Dali had left Baltimore at 1am and was heading for the Sri Lankan capital, Colombo, according to the maritime data platform MarineTraffic.

Built in 1977 and referred to locally as the Key Bridge, it was later named after the author of the American national anthem.

The bridge is more than 8,500 feet, or 1.2 miles, long in total. Its main section spans 1,200 feet and was one of the longest continuous truss bridges in the world upon its completion, according to the National Steel Bridge Alliance.

Meanwhile, thugs riot in ungovernable “Charm City”