Baltimore: First cost estimate for rebuilding the bridge published

A container ship rams a car bridge in the US city of Baltimore - the structure immediately collapses.

Rescue workers searched for hours for missing people in the water. But their efforts are in vain. A structural engineer has now given an initial estimate of the costs of the reconstruction.

After the collapse of a large car bridge in the US state of Maryland, the authorities assume that six people are missing. The US Coast Guard announced on Tuesday evening (local time) that the active search for survivors would be discontinued.

Given the water temperature, it is no longer expected that anyone will be found alive after so many hours. A Coast Guard representative said they did not want to risk the health of rescue workers because of the dangerous currents and debris in the water.

A huge container ship rammed the four-lane, more than 2.5 kilometer long car bridge on Tuesday night, causing it to collapse. After the accident, police and rescue workers searched for several missing people from the air and in the water for many hours – divers and infrared and sonar technology were also used.

The missing people belonged to a construction crew

The six missing people were part of a construction crew that was tasked with filling potholes on the Francis Scott Key Bridge on the night of the accident, Maryland Transportation Secretary Paul Wiedefeld said. Among the victims were construction workers from Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico, diplomats from those countries said.

Jeffrey Pritzker, assistant manager of Brawner Builders, said his company’s employees were working in the middle of the bridge when it collapsed. Great importance is attached to safety, for example by setting up barriers and traffic cones, signs and signal lights. But no one expected the bridge to collapse. “That was completely unforeseen,” said Pritzker.

He heard that the missing people were just taking a break and some were sitting in their trucks, said Jesus Campos, who worked for Brawner Builders on the bridge and knows members of the accident crew. “Imagine knowing you are falling. It is so hard. You don’t know what to do.” Roman Catholic priest Ako Walker said he spent time with the families of the missing workers as they waited for news of their loved ones. “You can see the pain on their faces,” Walker said.

According to Maryland Governor Wes Moore, the Singapore-flagged container ship was heading toward the Francis Scott Key Bridge “at eight knots, which is extremely fast.” According to authorities, there was no evidence of an intentional act or even a terrorist attack. Everything pointed to an accident, they said.

Expert gives forecast for reconstruction

The container ship hit the bridge “in exactly the right place,” said engineer and structural engineer Matthew Roblez to CNN.

The bridge was built long before there were guidelines for collisions. “It makes me think about how many other bridges out there are vulnerable,” Roblez said.

Recovering the parts alone will take months, said Roblez, and rebuilding it will take about two years. The costs for this would be around 500 million dollars (a good 460 million euros).

The almost 290 meter long ship named “Dali” was supposed to sail from Baltimore to Sri Lanka, as the “New York Times” reported, citing the US Coast Guard.

The Danish shipping company Maersk announced that it had temporarily chartered the ship, which was operated by the charter company Synergy Group. Accordingly, there were no Maersk personnel on the ship. The Danish container shipping company is the second largest in the world behind industry leader MSC.

The ship apparently had problems with the power supply

“Immediately before the incident, the ship ‘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.

According to US authorities, the crew managed to inform authorities in Maryland via a distress signal that they had lost control of the ship. Officials on land were apparently able to stop traffic and prevent more cars from getting onto the bridge.

According to official information, the first emergency calls were received around 1:40 a.m. (local time). Emergency services were on site as early as 1:50 a.m. Surveillance camera videos shared on social media showed the ship ramming one of the support pillars, causing large parts of the bridge to collapse into the water.

The US Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is investigating the incident. It will probably take some time until official results are available about the cause of the accident. The emergency services initially concentrated on searching for the missing people.

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 light trucks. According to government figures, around 850,000 vehicles are shipped through the port every year. Around 15,000 jobs depend on it.

The bridge also destroyed an important traffic artery on the east coast of the USA. According to the US government, around 30,000 vehicles crossed the bridge per day before the accident.

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