• Sunday, April 21, 2024

HEADLINE STORY

Baltimore collision: Indian embassy in US condoles; Biden lauds ship crew’s quick action

President Joe Biden, speaking from the White House, said a timely alert from the ship’s crew likely prevented further loss of life.

The cargo ship ‘Dali’ sits in the water after running into and collapsing the Francis Scott Key Bridge on March 26, 2024, in Baltimore, Maryland, the US. The accident has temporarily closed the Port of Baltimore, one of the largest and busiest on the East Coast of the US. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

By: Shubham Ghosh

THE Indian Embassy in the United States has expressed condolences for the “regrettable incident” in Baltimore, Maryland, where a cargo vessel operated by a 22-member Indian crew collided with a crucial bridge, leaving it destroyed.

The incident may have resulted in the loss of six lives and brought one of the northeast US’s primary ports to a standstill.

The collapse of Baltimore’s Francis Scott Key Bridge over the Patapsco River, spanning over 2.6 kilometers, occurred early Tuesday (26) morning as several vehicles were crossing it.

Officials reported that the Singapore-flagged vessel ‘Dali’ encountered a “power issue” and issued a distress call just moments before the collision.

Read: Entire crew of cargo ship that crashed into Baltimore bridge are Indians: company

President Joe Biden, speaking from the White House, acknowledged that the timely alert from the ship’s crew likely prevented further loss of life.

“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,” he said.

Wes Moore, governor of Maryland, had also applauded the crew for raising the alarm on time and called them ‘heroes’.

“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.

In a post on X, the Indian embassy in Washington said, “Our heartfelt condolences to all affected by the unfortunate accident at the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore”.

The embassy has also set up a dedicated hotline (+1-202-717-1996) for any Indian citizens who may be affected or require assistance due to the tragedy. It is also ascertaining details regarding the vessel’s crew.

Ship management company Synergy Marine Group, which operates the ship, 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.

Some of the individuals missing after the collapse of the 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.

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.

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,” the president said.

He also 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,” the president said on X.

(With PTI inputs)

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