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Crews remove first pieces of collapsed Baltimore bridge from water

Crews are working to dismantle the first section Baltimore Bridge Wreck Officials said it was the starting point for a complex, extensive cleanup process that could help create a temporary channel to allow more boats to enter the waters surrounding the collapse site.

Clearing the waterway will allow the search for missing victims to continue and reopen ports vital to the region and the region. national economyauthorities said Saturday. Meanwhile, conditions in the water are unsafe for divers as fragments of the bridge remain submerged.

“Currently, pieces of the bridge truss have begun to be cut and removed. The top of the northern section of the bridge has been removed,” U.S. Coast Guard spokesperson Staff Sgt. Kimberly Reeves said Sunday.

Last week, a 213 million-pound cargo ship hit the Francis Scott Key Bridge, Killed six construction workersAuthorities believe the bodies of the four victims, who have yet to be recovered, are trapped in a tangle of underwater steel and concrete.

“We have a ship almost the size of the Eiffel Tower that’s stuck in the channel with a bridge above it,” Maryland Gov. Wes Moore said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.” . ”

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said Sunday on CBS’s “Face the Nation” that officials have not set a timetable for reopening the waterway or rebuilding the bridge.

Buttigieg said there is a 1,000-ton crane on site and a 600-ton crane on the way to help remove demolition components of the bridge.

“It’s going to be a very complex process,” he said. “Even now, there are forces acting on the steel, so it’s going to take a lot of effort to make sure it can be removed safely, to make sure the ship stays in place.” It should. It’s where it should be and doesn’t wiggle into the channel. “

Officials at the bridge site told CNN they are conducting engineering analyzes and collapse investigations to determine what to do with the 3,000 to 4,000 tons of debris that extends 50 feet into the channel.

Officials say removing the thousands of tons of steel and concrete on top of the ship’s bow will be one of the most complex parts of the demolition job.

Estee Pinchasin, commander and district engineer for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, told CNN the wreckage will be recovered one piece at a time. After each recovery, rescuers scan and survey the area and divers enter the water.

“We’re not just thinking about how to design this. We’re scanning to make sure that if we see any vehicles or anyone falling, we’re able to respond,” Pinchasin said.

Pinchasin added that Maryland State Police divers are “on standby” and ready to handle any rescue efforts quickly.

Moore said Saturday that the work will allow for the opening of temporarily restricted access for vessels to access the area and assist with recovery.

The economic impact of the collapsed bridge could be widespread, as it indefinitely halted the flow of ships in and out of the Port of Baltimore and dealt a staggering blow to the thousands of longshoremen who rely on the busy port.

“People have to remember this is not a disaster in Baltimore, this is not a disaster in Maryland. This is also a national economic disaster,” Moore said Sunday.

U.S. Coast Guard Rear Adm. Shannon Gilreath told a news conference Saturday that the first lift of debris marked the beginning of a long process of reopening the port to allow tug and barge traffic. The first steps have to be taken,” he added.

“If we can open up another (channel) to help the economy here and get traffic in and out of the Port of Baltimore, even if it’s not a deep draft, we want to take advantage of that opportunity,” Gillies said.

The governor said the port “handles more automobiles and agricultural equipment than any other port in the country.” In addition, “the work of at least 8,000 workers on the dock was directly affected by the collapse”.

Buttigieg said Sunday that rebuilding the bridge will take longer.

“I can tell you that the original bridge took about five years to build, but that doesn’t necessarily give us an idea of ​​the timeline for the reconstruction,” he said. “We don’t fully know everything about the condition of the bridge.” There were no collapsed parts of the bridge. “

Current funding sources for this work are $60 million in emergency relief funding Buttigieg said officials, through the Department of Transportation, may need to seek additional funding from Congress.

Moore announced Saturday that small businesses affected by the closures can apply for loans of up to $2 million, funded in part by a disaster declaration approved by the Biden administration.

The governor said there was “still a need to understand what forms of adjustments occurred” after the initial boost.

The Coast Guard said that in order to reopen the port, they will first clear the debris in the deep-draft channel, remove the vessel, and then remove debris from bridges spanning the waterway.

“We continue to do dives just to evaluate how we might be able to cut portions of the bridge, how we might be able to use cranes to install it for future lifts, and how we can figure out exactly how to do that as safely as possible so that we can reopen. channel,” Gillies said Saturday.

On Sunday, CNN crews traveling along the ship’s original route before the accident observed an unaffected section of road on the foundation bridge collapse on top of the ship’s bow early last Tuesday.

Among the wreckage were hundreds of cargo containers still stacked, some crushed together and others teetering on the side of the ship.

Baltimore Gas & Electric told CNN in an email Saturday that ongoing cleanup efforts include isolating a section of underwater natural gas pipeline.

A spokesman said the company “deliberately released gas from the area as a proactive safety measure to support salvage operations near the bridge”. The spokesman said the work had not caused any impact to customers or safety concerns.

Coast Guard officials said the crew of the cargo ship that hit a bridge on Sunday remained aboard.

Coast Guard Capt. David O’Connell told CNN on Sunday as he traveled by boat to the collapse site that the ship was scheduled to make a 45-day trip to Sri Lanka and that the crew had adequate supplies. According to O’Connell, intact.

“They performed very well,” he said of the ship’s crew of 21 Indian nationals. “They suffered a very horrific accident. We cannot ignore this tragedy,” O’Connell said. The human factor in it. “

Divers may face uncertain conditions when returning to water

On Tuesday, March 26, 2024, a Dali container ship struck the Francis Scott Key Bridge.  -Al Drago/Bloomberg/Getty Images

On Tuesday, March 26, 2024, a Dali container ship struck the Francis Scott Key Bridge. – Al Drago/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Col. Roland L. Butler said last week that diving operations for the four missing victims had been suspended because the vehicles were found encased in concrete and other debris and were unsafe for divers.

Butler said Wednesday that after the search was halted, remote vehicles were sent out, equipped with sonar, to map what fell deep into the Patapsco River after the collapse. Drones and infrared technology were also used in the search.

Mark Martin of the marine survey and salvage company SalvOcean LLC said that once salvage operations clear the wreckage, divers who resume the search for the victims may face a difficult task.

“The water is moving pretty fast out there, and I’ve been submerged in Baltimore Harbor for many days, and I can tell you, you never see what’s a foot or two in front of you,” Martin told CNN on Saturday. “

Still, the currents weren’t strong enough to move the larger debris, Martin said.

“Once these things start to get cut off, then you have to be careful, you have to monitor the flow, the direction, the speed, all those things,” he said.

Sonar is continuously monitoring any movement of the ship. Martin said that given the weight of the bow, he believed the only movement would have been for the bow to sink deeper into the sand than it already does.

CNN’s Michelle Watson, Lauren Mascarenhas, Steve Williams and Sarah Du Sarah Dewberry contributed to this report.

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