Biden praises prompt action of Indian crew of ship which hit Baltimore bridge

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WASHINGTON : 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 in Baltimore 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 early morning, possibly killing 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, CNN reported.

“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.

The pilot was also the one who contacted the pilot dispatch office to shut down traffic to the bridge, said Diamond, who has been in close contact with the Association of Maryland Pilots over what transpired on the cargo ship in the moments leading up to the crash.

“Those were all the appropriate steps, but it happened so quickly and with so little lead time … neither one of those manoeuvres was enough,” Diamond said.

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,” he said.

“We are thankful that between the mayday and the collapse, we had officials who were able to begin to stop the flow of traffic so more cars were not up on the bridge,” he said.

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

Ship management company Synergy Marine Group confirmed in a statement that the crew on Dali is “All Indian, 22 in total.” It further said that all crew members, including the two pilots, have been accounted for, and there are no reports of any injuries.

Two persons were rescued from the water after the bridge’s collapse, while six construction workers working on the bridge to repair potholes remained missing.

Some of the individuals missing are Mexican nationals, according to Rafael Laveaga, Chief of the Consular Section of Mexico’s Embassy in Washington, while two of the missing construction workers were from Guatemala, the country’s foreign ministry said on Tuesday.

After an entire day of search and rescue operations, the US Coast Guard suspended operations since it was unlikely the remaining workers would be found alive.



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