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30/03/24 | 7:28 pm | Baltimore bridge collapse

Baltimore bridge collapse: Huge crane put in place to remove debris as crews assess damage

The largest operational crane on the U.S. Eastern Seaboard towered over Baltimore’s port on Friday, all set for the clearance of wreckage from the Francis Scott Key Bridge following a cargo ship collision. The bridge collapsed into the harbor after the incident.

As of midday Friday, crews were still assessing the damage. The crane, capable of lifting up to 1,000 tons, arrived late Thursday night and is scheduled to start removing debris from the water on Saturday morning, as stated by U.S. Coast Guard spokesperson Carmen Carver.

Another crane is on its way and is expected to join the operation soon, according to Carver.

State and federal authorities are prioritizing the clearing of the busy port and the reconstruction of the bridge after the Dali, a massive container ship that lost power, collided with a support column early Tuesday. This collision resulted in the bridge’s collapse and the presumed death of six workers.

Divers have recovered two bodies of the missing construction workers who were repairing the bridge during the accident. The remaining four are believed to be trapped underwater. All six workers were immigrants from Mexico and Central America.

Maryland Governor Wes Moore emphasized during a press conference on Thursday that locating the remaining bodies is the primary focus. Additionally, crews need to determine how to extract the stranded vessel, which is laden with thousands of containers and ensnared by bridge debris.

“The Dali is nearly as long as the Eiffel Tower, and it currently has the Key Bridge atop it. We are dealing with 3,000 to 4,000 tons of steel resting on that ship, so there’s a significant amount of work ahead,” Moore stated at Thursday’s press briefing.

Following Moore’s appeal for emergency funds, the U.S. government promptly granted Maryland $60 million on Thursday to facilitate debris clearance and initiate bridge reconstruction. This quick action underscores the critical importance of the bridge to shipping and transportation industries along the Eastern Seaboard.

In the aftermath of the tragedy, approximately 15,000 individuals whose livelihoods are tied to daily port operations are facing disruptions. Maryland lawmakers are considering emergency legislation to provide income support for those affected, according to the state senate president’s statement this week.

The situation presents a temporary economic risk to the area, given that the port handles a significant portion of U.S. auto imports and is one of only four East Coast ports with a 50-foot channel capable of accommodating larger cargo vessels, noted bond rating agency Moody’s Investors Service.

Replacing the 47-year-old bridge is expected to be a lengthy process, potentially spanning years. However, the port, which has recently surpassed pre-pandemic activity levels, could reopen within weeks if debris removal progresses swiftly, as outlined in a Moody’s report.

“While the port remains closed, the redirection of automotive imports and other cargo to alternative East Coast ports will diminish Baltimore’s advantage as the closest port to the Midwest, impacting terminal operators,” the report highlighted.

(Agency inputs)

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