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Baltimore Bridge Collapse: Seven Floating Cranes and More Than 30 Vessels Involved in Major Rescue Operation

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A complex rescue operation is underway to remove debris from the Baltimore Bridge, the first step toward reopening the vital port and recovering the bodies of the four workers still missing, presumed dead.

Seven floating cranes, including the largest on the Atlantic coast10 tugboats, nine barges, eight salvage vessels and five Coast Guard boats, along with teams of engineers are involved in the mammoth task of clearing the twisted remains of metal and concrete from Francis Scott Key Bridge of the Patapsco River in Maryland.

The structure collapsed into the water in seconds Tuesday after being struck by the Dali, a 300 m (985 ft) cargo ship, which had lost power.

Photo: Reuters
Picture:
Experts are trying to find a way to break up the wreckage to remove it. Photo: Reuters

U.S. Coast Guard Rear Admiral Shannon Gilreath said experts were trying to find a way to “break this bridge into the right size pieces that we can lift.”

Maryland Governor Wes Moore said, “To go out there and see this up close, you realize what a daunting task it is.

“With such a complex rescue operation – and frankly with such an unprecedented rescue operation – you have to plan for every moment.”

He said shipping containers aboard the cargo ship were torn “like paper mache” in the accident.

Learn more about the Baltimore Bridge Collapse

The wreck prevented ships from entering or leaving the busy port and also hampered the search for missing workers.

The governor said, “We have to bring closure to these families.”

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Inside the ship that crashed into the Baltimore Bridge

Highlighting the growing financial cost, he added: “What we’re talking about today is not just about Maryland’s economy, it’s about the national economy.

“The port handles more cars and more agricultural equipment than any other port in this country.”

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Maryland Transportation Secretary Paul J. Wiedefeld said his department was already planning to rebuild the bridge and “considering innovative design, engineering and construction methods so we can quickly complete this project.”

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Aftermath of the Baltimore Bridge Wreck

Meanwhile, authorities imposed a no-fly zone over the area and residents were asked to keep drones away.

The victims of the disaster, members of a road crew repairing potholes on the bridge when it was destroyed, came from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, officials said.

At least eight people fell into the water when the ship hit the bridge column, and two of them were rescued.

The divers then recovered the bodies of two men from a van in the river, but the extent of debris and murky underwater conditions complicated efforts to find the other four workers.

The White House approved $60 million (£48 million) in immediate aid and US President Joe Biden said the federal government would pay the full cost of rebuilding the highway bridge, completed in 1977 and carrying 30,000 vehicles per day.

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The cargo ship, managed by Synergy Marine Group, was heading from Baltimore to Sri Lanka at the time of the accident.

It is owned by Grace Ocean Private Ltd and was chartered by Danish shipping giant Maersk.

Synergy said in a statement: “We deeply regret this incident and the problems it has caused for the people of Baltimore and the region’s economy that depends on this vital port.”

The company said it would continue to cooperate with the investigation.

Of the ship’s 21 crew members, only one was slightly injured and required stitches.

The massive 86,000-ton ship was carrying nearly 4,700 shipping containers.

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