“We will cease our active search and rescue efforts”: With these words, a representative of the US Coast Guard on Tuesday evening (local time) took away any hope that survivors could still be found after the collapse of a highway bridge in Baltimore, Maryland. Because of the length of time spent searching and the water temperature, “we do not believe at this point that we will find any of these individuals alive,” said Shannon Gilreath of the Coast Guard.

The night before, a huge container ship had rammed one of the pillars of the Francis Scott Key Bridge. Video recordings in online services showed how the fully loaded container ship rammed into one of the bridge pillars. The spectacular collapse of the illuminated bridge into the Patapsco River can also be seen.

The ship’s crew had made an emergency call before the collision, which may have saved lives – because officers on land stopped traffic and prevented more cars from getting onto the bridge. Nevertheless, large parts of the bridge, which was more than 2.5 kilometers long, collapsed as steel girders weighing tons were bent like thin wire by the enormous force and people and cars were dragged into the depths.

According to Maryland Governor Wes Moore, the Singapore-flagged, 290-meter-long container ship “Dali” was heading toward the bridge “at eight knots, i.e. at a rapid speed” – that’s around 15 kilometers per hour.

According to Maryland Transportation Secretary Paul Wiedefeld, there were eight construction workers on the bridge repairing potholes at the time of the accident. Two people were saved. According to US media, one person was initially taken to a hospital and released a short time later. The remaining six people were missing for many hours.

According to official information, the first emergency calls were received around 1:40 a.m. (local time) on Tuesday. A few minutes later, the first emergency services arrived at the scene of the accident. Throughout Tuesday, police and rescue workers searched for the six missing people in the water, from the air and on land. In addition to dozens of divers, infrared and sonar technology was also used. Initially, five vehicles were identified in the water, including three cars and a concrete mixer. But no people were found.

Finding the missing people alive became increasingly unlikely as time went on. US media reported, citing a local official, that the water at the site was around 15 meters deep and there were strong currents. The water temperature was therefore a little under ten degrees.

On Tuesday evening, the coast guard representative announced that the active search for survivors would be stopped. “We’re transitioning from a search and rescue operation to a recovery operation,” said Roland Butler of Maryland police. The current and debris in the water are dangerous for the rescue workers. You don’t want to put their health at risk. A police representative said ships would continue to sail overnight. Divers would then be sent into the water again early in the morning. However, it is only about the possible recovery of corpses.

According to the authorities, there is no evidence of an intentional act or even a terrorist attack. US President Joe Biden spoke of a “terrible accident”. According to initial findings, a problem with the power supply could have been the cause. “Immediately before the incident, the vessel ‘Dali’ briefly lost propulsion. As a result, it was unable to maintain the desired course and collided,” the Singapore Maritime Authority said. The crew “dropped anchor” in a last, desperate attempt to prevent the impact, the shipping authority said, citing reports from the charter company.

Watch the video: USA correspondent about devastating ship collision in Baltimore – “Thank God it was in the middle of the night”.

The chairwoman of the Transportation Safety Board NTSB, Jennifer Homendy, did not initially comment on the possible causes. “The NTSB doesn’t speculate, we provide facts,” she said. During the investigation, two dozen investigators would take a close look at the construction of the bridge as well as the ship and its history. The so-called ship data recorder is of particular importance. There was no evidence that the bridge structure was defective, said Governor Moore. “The bridge fully complied with regulations.”

The 22-member crew is safe, according to Singapore’s Maritime and Ports Authority. The Danish shipping company Maersk confirmed that it had rented the ship from the charter company Synergy Group and was transporting customers’ cargo on it. According to Singapore’s port authority, the “Dali” passed two inspections last year.

As US media reported, citing the Coast Guard, precautions were taken to keep environmental damage as low as possible. Accordingly, a sheen of oil could be seen on the water. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg also announced that they are preparing for supply chain problems. These not only affect the region around Baltimore, “but the entire US economy.” The responsible authority suspended shipping traffic to the port until further notice, and larger freighters were diverted to a port in the neighboring state of Virginia.

As US President Biden explained, the Port of Baltimore is one of the most important maritime ports of call in the USA – especially for the import and export of cars and small trucks. According to this, around 850,000 vehicles are shipped via it every year. Around 15,000 jobs depend on it. Biden wants to finance the reconstruction of the bridge with federal money. Governor Moore declared a state of emergency to enable relief efforts by US President Joe Biden’s administration in nearby Washington.

Asked whether Americans should worry about the stability of the country’s bridges, Buttigieg replied: “I don’t know of any bridge that can withstand the direct impact of a ship of this size.” However, one must draw the right conclusions from the accident and learn from it.