Updated Mar 26, 2024 - Politics & Policy

"Unthinkable tragedy": Major Baltimore bridge collapses after ship collision

A container ship is shown below the crumbled Francis Scott Key bridge in Baltimore, Maryland, after dawn.

The Dali container vessel after striking the Francis Scott Key Bridge that collapsed into the Patapsco River in Baltimore, Md., on Mar. 26, 2024. Photo: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Maryland Gov. Wes Moore (D) has declared a state of emergency following the collapse of a major bridge in Baltimore on Tuesday that has set off a massive search for survivors in the river below.

The big picture: Officials say a cargo ship struck the Francis Scott Key Bridge, an important piece of infrastructure in a vital port, which spans the Patapsco River.

Zoom in: Paul Wiedefeld, Maryland's transportation secretary, said eight members of a construction crew were making repairs to the bridge at the time of the collision around 1:30am ET Tuesday.

  • At least six of them were still unaccounted for as of 4pm ET Tuesday. Their employer said they were presumed to be dead.
  • Wiedefeld said the repairs were not related to the bridge's structural integrity.

Zoom out: President Biden said Tuesday that he wants the federal government to pay for the full cost of reconstructing the bridge.

  • The White House said in a statement earlier that the president "directed his team to ensure all federal resources be made available."
  • In a Tuesday afternoon press conference, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said that emergency federal funding would be approved once federal officials receive the request.
  • "I have no doubt that we will rebuild together and Baltimore will come back stronger than ever," Buttigieg said.

What they're saying: Moore, at the morning press conference, said the ship issued a mayday call before striking the bridge and confirmed that the crew had notified authorities that it was experiencing a power issue.

  • One video of the incident shows the vessel's light going dark at least twice before it struck the bridge.
  • "The preliminary investigation points to an accident," Moore said, ruling out terrorism.
  • Moore said the alert from the ship's crew had allowed authorities on the bridge to halt traffic before the crash. "These people are heroes," he said of those who stopped traffic. "They saved lives last night."

Catch up quick: Moore announced on X at around 6am ET that he had declared a state of emergency.

  • Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott called the incident an "unthinkable tragedy" at a press conference Tuesday morning.
  • The Federal Aviation Administration has restricted flight around the area to allow full access to emergency crews.

Zoom in: A YouTube livestream of the bridge shows a large cargo vessel slamming into a support column at 1:28 am ET, causing the entire span to crumble into the dark, frigid waters below.

  • That vessel, the Dali container ship sailing under the flag of Singapore, had just left a port in Baltimore and was starting a nearly month-long voyage to Sri Lanka, according to ship tracking sites.
  • Officials said the ship's crew were safe.

The bottom line: Moore, reflecting on how the bridge has been a mainstay for commuters in the area for decades, said it was "shocking and heartbreaking" to hear it was gone.

  • "For 47 years, that's all we've known," he said.

Go deeper: What to know about the ripple effects of the Baltimore bridge collapse

Editor's note: This story has been updated with new details throughout.

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