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Why Indians Are Still Stuck On Ship Months After It Hit US Bridge


On Monday, crews demolished part of the bridge in a bid to free the Dali.

New Delhi:

In the early morning of March 26, a container ship hit a major commuter bridge in Baltimore, collapsing it within seconds, killing six and halting shipping traffic at one of the most important ports on the US East Coast. The Singapore-flagged container ship Dali and the crew – 20 Indian and one Sri Lankan – have remained in place since.

The 2.6-km-long, four-lane Francis Scott Key Bridge over the Patapsco River came crashing down after being struck by the 984-foot ship. Several video footage showed nearly all the ship’s lights going off shortly before the stunning collapse. Now, a preliminary report by federal investigators released Tuesday said the Dali suffered two electricity blackouts in the moments before the disaster. The report by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) also detailed two blackouts about ten hours before leaving Baltimore.

On Monday, crews demolished part of the bridge in a bid to free the Dali. Authorities hope that it would help the crew move a bit closer to a reunion with their families, miles away.

The crew has been unable to deboard the ship due to visa restrictions and investigations by the NTSB and FBI.

Jim Lawrence, a spokesperson for the Dali owner Grace Ocean Private Ltd., recently told IANS that the Indian crew members are on board and “in good spirits”.

“In addition to performing normal duties on board the ship, they are also assisting with the investigations and with the ongoing salvage work,” Mr Lawrence said.

In April, the FBI launched a criminal probe targeting the ship, with its agents boarding the Dali as part of the investigation. The crew has been left almost without communication with the outside world as their cellphones have been seized by the FBI as part of the investigation, executive director of the Baltimore International Seafarers’ Centre The Rev. Joshua Messick told PTI.

The crew has been given SIM cards and temporary cell phones without data included, Mr Messick told BBC.

They also received care packages – including Indian snacks and quits – from various community groups, according to a BBC report.

The NTSB said the Dali was just 0.6 miles from the bridge when the electrical breakers that fed most of the ship’s equipment and lighting unexpectedly tripped, causing the first blackout. It lost propulsion and steering and began to drift off course. The crew managed to restore power briefly, but with the Dali just 0.2 miles from the bridge, the lights went out again.

US President Joe Biden promised last month to “move heaven and earth” to rebuild the bridge, pledging federal funds and saying a new channel for shipping traffic would open by the end of May.

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