UNITED STATES NEWS

Crews at Baltimore bridge collapse continue meticulous work of removing twisted steel and concrete

Mar 31, 2024, 10:00 AM | Updated: 2:50 pm

BALTIMORE (AP) — As divers assisted crews with the complicated and meticulous operation of removing the steel and concrete from the fallen Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore, some near the site took time on Easter Sunday to reflect on the six workers presumed to have plunged to their deaths.

As cranes periodically swung into place and workers measured and cut the steel to prepare to lift sections of twisted steel, Rev. Ako Walker held a Mass in Spanish at Sacred Heart of Jesus, about 5 miles (8 kilometers) up the Patapsco River from the collapse.

“Yes we can rebuild a bridge, but we have to look at the way in which migrant workers are treated and how best we can improve their situation as they come to the United States of America,” Walker said of the men who were from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador and were patching potholes.

Dive teams were in the river Sunday surveying parts of the bridge underwater and checking on the ship to ensure it can be safely floated away once the wreckage is lifted. Workers in lifts used torches earlier to cut parts of the twisted steel superstructure above water.

The bridge fell early Tuesday as the crew of the cargo ship Dali lost power and control. They called in a mayday, which allowed just enough time for police to stop vehicles from getting on the bridge, but not enough time to get a crew of eight workers off the structure.

Two workers survived, two bodies were found in a submerged pickup and four more men are presumed dead. Weather conditions and the tangled debris underwater have made it too dangerous for divers to search for their bodies.

Each part of the bridge removed from the water will be lifted onto a barge and floated downstream to the Tradepoint Atlantic logistics center, where it will be inspected, Coast Guard Rear Adm. Shannon Gilreath said.

Everything the salvage crews do affects what happens next and ultimately how long it will take to remove all the debris and reopen the ship channel and the blocked Port of Baltimore, Maryland Gov. Wes Moore said.

It can also alter the course of the National Transportation Safety Board investigation, which Moore said is important to ensure this doesn’t happen again.

“We need to have answers on what happened. We need to know who should be accountable for this. And we need to make sure we’re holding them accountable,” Moore said Sunday on CNN.

The crew of the Dali, which is as long as the Eiffel Tower is tall, remains onboard the ship. The vessel is tangled in 3,000 to 4,000 tons of debris. Most of its containers remain intact, but some were torn open or knocked away by the falling debris.

The Dali is managed by Synergy Marine Group and owned by Grace Ocean Private Ltd. Danish shipping giant Maersk charted Dali, which was on its way out of port when it hit the bridge’s support column.

Along with clearing the shipping channel to reopen the port, officials are trying to figure out how to rebuild the major bridge, which was completed in 1977 and carried Interstate 695 around southeast Baltimore and was a vital link to the city’s centuries of maritime culture.

It took five years to build the original bridge. President Joe Biden’s administration has promised to pay the full cost to rebuild and state and federal transportation officials said they will work as quickly as possible.

But exactly how long the new bridge will take can’t be figured out now. Engineers haven’t been able to assess the condition of the ramps and smaller bridges leading to the collapsed structure to get the full scope of what must be done.

Congress is expected to consider aid packages to help people who lose jobs or businesses because of the prolonged closure of the Port of Baltimore. The port handles more cars and farm equipment than any other U.S. facility.

“This matters to folks in rural North Carolina, in Kansas, and Iowa. This matters to the global economy. And it should not be something that has anything or any conversation around party. We are talking about an American tragedy to an American city,” Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott told CBS’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday.

On Monday the Small Business Administration will open a center in Dundalk, Maryland, to help small businesses get loans to help them with losses caused by the disruption of the bridge collapse.

The workers weren’t parishioners at Sacred Heart of Jesus, whose pews were packed Sunday for mass. But its pastor, Walker, reached out to the families because as he said the Latino community in Baltimore is large in number but closely connected.

He said in an interview before mass that they were good men working not just for their families in the U.S. but also for relatives in their countries.

Walker hopes their stories encourage people to embrace migrant workers who want to improve their lives and grow their communities.

“We have to be bridges for one another even in this most difficult situations. Our lives must be small bridges of mercy of hope of togetherness and of building communities,” Walker said.

___

Collins reported from Columbia, South Carolina. Associated Press writers Sarah Brumfield in Washington, D.C.; Kristin M. Hall in Nashville, Tennessee; Adrian Sainz in Memphis, Tennessee; and Lisa Baumann in Bellingham, Washington, contributed.

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Crews at Baltimore bridge collapse continue meticulous work of removing twisted steel and concrete