• Tuesday, April 23, 2024

HEADLINE STORY

Baltimore crash: Biden praises prompt action of Indian crew

Authorities suspended their search for six people missing after a packed cargo ship slammed into a Baltimore bridge

Joe Biden addresses the Baltimore, Maryland, bridge collapse in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, DC, on March 26, 2024. (Photo by PEDRO UGARTE/AFP via Getty Images)

By: Pramod Thomas

US president Joe Biden hailed the prompt action of the 22-member Indian crew of the cargo ship that struck and demolished a key bridge for saving lives by alerting local authorities before the dramatic collision.

Baltimore’s 2.6 km-long Francis Scott Key Bridge collapsed after the container ship manned entirely by an Indian crew collided with one of its supports Tuesday (26) early morning.

It possibly killed six people and bringing one of the most important ports in the northeast US to a grinding halt.

Officials said the Singapore-flagged ship ‘Dali’ suffered a “power issue” and issued a distress call moments before the crash.

In remarks at the White House, Biden praised the ship’s crew, saying the alert they sent 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.

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.

According to an American Pilots Association officer, the ship suffered a total blackout before the collision with the bridge.

“Just minutes before the bridge, there was a total blackout on the ship, meaning that the ship lost engine power and electrical power; it was a complete blackout,” said Clay Diamond, executive director and general counsel of the American Pilots Association.

Diamond said that the pilot did “everything that he could have done” to slow the ship down and keep it from drifting to the right, toward the bridge.

Maryland governor Wes Moore also told reporters that the cargo ship crew alerted authorities about a “power issue” before the vessel collided with the bridge. 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.

“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, was literally by being able to stop cars from coming over the bridge. These people are heroes; they saved lives last night.”

The vessel, owned by Grace Ocean Private Ltd, was outbound from Baltimore to Colombo, Sri Lanka.

Meanwhile, the Indian Embassy in the US has condoled the “unfortunate accident”.

“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.

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.

(Agencies)

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