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Officials stopped traffic onto Baltimore Key Bridge before collapse: ‘These people are heroes’

Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

(BALTIMORE) — Officials were able to stop the flow of traffic onto the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore before a massive cargo ship crashed into a support column, helping to save lives in the disaster, Maryland Gov. Wes Moore said.

The container ship Dali issued a mayday call as it approached the 1.6-mile-long bridge at about eight knots, a “very rapid speed,” Moore said. Following that notification, officials were able to prevent more cars from going onto the bridge before the collapse, he said.

“These people are heroes,” Moore told reporters during a press briefing on Tuesday. “They saved lives last night.”

After personnel on the ship alerted the Maryland Department of Transportation that they lost control of the vessel, local authorities were able to close the bridge before it was struck, “which undoubtedly saved lives,” President Joe Biden said Tuesday during remarks on the disaster.

A review of traffic cameras by Maryland transportation officials confirmed there were “no vehicles transiting the bridge at the time of the incident,” according to an internal U.S. Department of Homeland Security briefing obtained by ABC News.

The Singapore-flagged vessel struck the bridge at about 1:30 a.m. ET, causing the bridge to partially collapse, officials said. Authorities said several workers who were part of a maintenance team fixing potholes on the span went into the water, along with multiple vehicles.

Two workers were rescued while six remain unaccounted for following the collapse, officials said. Authorities were working to determine how many people may have been involved in the collapse, Moore said.

“The thing we do know is that many of the vehicles were stopped before they got onto the bridge, which saved lives in a very, very heroic way,” he said.

A search-and-rescue effort is underway, with divers and emergency personnel combing the area for people believed to have fallen from the collapsing bridge into the frigid water, officials said.

“To the victims of this tragedy and their loved ones, all our hearts are broken,” Moore said. “In the face of heartbreak, we come together, we embrace each other.”

Moore said there was no credible evidence that the crash involved terrorism. He said it appeared to be a tragic accident.

According to a Coast Guard memo obtained by ABC News, a harbor pilot and an assistant aboard the cargo ship reported the power issues that prompted multiple alarms on the bridge of the vessel and loss of propulsion.

The bridge is part of Interstate 695 and crossed the Patapsco River in the Port of Baltimore.

An estimated 30,000 vehicles crossed the bridge per day, according to the Maryland Transportation Authority.

ABC News’ Josh Margolin and Aaron Katersky contributed to this report.

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