A 948-foot container ship smashed into a four-lane bridge in the U.S. port of Baltimore in darkness early on Tuesday, causing it to collapse and sending cars and people plunging into the river below.

Rescuers pulled out two survivors, one in very serious condition, and were searching for more in the Patapsco River after huge spans of the 1.6-mile (2.57 km) Francis Scott Key Bridge crumpled into the water.

Baltimore officials said at least seven people were believed to have been thrown into the water but could not give an exact figure hours after the collision, which closed one of the busiest ports in the United States.

The U.S. Coast Guard reported the collapse at 1:27 a.m. and crews were deployed for an active search and rescue mission after the Singapore-flagged container ship forced the trellis-like bridge up into a mangled mass of metal.

President Joe Biden was being briefed on the collision and there was no indication of nefarious intent, the White House said.

Work crews had been on the bridge at the time of the collapse and sonar detected vehicles under the water, which was about 50 feet deep at that point, said Paul Wiedefeld, Maryland Secretary of Transportation.

Jayme Krause was in the midst of another night shift at her workplace on shore when the cart of packages in front of her shook violently at around 2 a.m.. A coworker told her the bridge had collapsed and she ran out to look.

"I went over there, and sure as anything, it was gone, the whole bridge was just like, there was nothing there," she told Reuters in an interview. "It was a shocking sight to see."

The ship "lost propulsion" as it was leaving port, and crew on board notified Maryland officials they had lost control of the vessel, ABC News reported, citing an unclassified U.S. intelligence report.

Traffic was suspended at the Port of Baltimore until further notice, Maryland transportation authorities said. It is the busiest U.S. port for car shipments, handling more than 750,000 vehicles in 2022, according to port data.

The closure of one of the U.S. East Coast's major ports threatens to disrupt supplies of goods from cars, to coal and other commodities like sugar. It could create bottlenecks and increase delays and costs on the Northeastern seaboard, experts say. The port handles the most car imports and is among the largest for coal exports.

The ship was identified as the Dali, owned by Grace Ocean Pte Ltd and managed by Synergy Marine Corp. Synergy said the Dali collided with one of the pillars of the bridge and that all its crew members, including the two pilots, had been accounted for and there were no reports of any injuries.

Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott described a scene of twisted metal shooting into the sky. "It was something out of an action movie. It was something you never thought you'd see," he said.

Kevin Cartwright, the spokesperson for Baltimore City Fire Department, earlier told Reuters that as many as 20 people could be in the river along with cars and possibly a tractor-trailer.

"This is a mass-casualty, multi-agency event," he said. "This operation is going to extend for many days."

A live video posted on YouTube showed the ship ploughing into the bridge in darkness. The headlights of vehicles could be seen on the bridge as it crashed into the water and the ship caught fire.


Tuesday's disaster may be the worst U.S. bridge collapse since 2007 when the I-35W bridge in Minneapolis collapsed into the Mississippi River, killing 13.

It was the first major collapse of a bridge from a ship impact in about 40 or 50 years, David Knight, a specialist at the Institution of Civil Engineers, told Reuters.

Maryland Governor Wes Moore declared a state of emergency to quickly deploy federal resources to deal with the emergency. The FBI in Baltimore said on X its personnel were on the scene.

It was not immediately clear if any other vessels had been damaged or whether operations had halted to and from the port, shipping and insurance sources said.

The Dali was chartered by shipping company Maersk at the time of the incident, the Danish company said in a statement.

"We are horrified by what has happened in Baltimore, and our thoughts are with all of those affected," Maersk said.

Baltimore port's private and public terminals handled 847,158 autos and light trucks in 2023, the most of any U.S. port. The port also handles farm and construction machinery, sugar, gypsum and coal, according to a Maryland government website.

The port handles imports and exports for major automakers including Nissan, Toyota, General Motors, Volvo, Jaguar Land Rover and the Volkswagen group - including luxury models for Audi, Lamborghini and Bentley.

More than 40 ships remained inside Baltimore port including small cargo ships, tug boats and pleasure craft, data from ship tracking and maritime analytics provider MarineTraffic showed. At least 30 other ships had signalled their destination was Baltimore, the data showed.

The bridge, named after Francis Scott Key, author of the Star Spangled Banner, opened in 1977.

(Reporting by Shubham Kalia, Harshita Meenaktshi, Shreya Biswas, Jyoti Narayan and Swati Verma in Bengaluru, Additional reporting by Christian Schmollinger, Arpan Daniel Varghese, Rich McKay and David Shepardson; Writing by Ros Russell; Editing by Andrew Heavens, Philippa Fletcher, Gerry Doyle Nick Macfie and Franklin Paul)