Vessels Clearing Debris Have a Temporary Channel to Use

'We have to move fast, but we cannot be careless,' governor says
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Apr 1, 2024 5:50 PM CDT
Vessels Clearing Debris Have a Temporary Channel to Use
People watch as workers start to remove a section of the collapsed Francis Scott Key Bridge late Sunday in Baltimore.   (AP Photo/Julia Nikhinson)

The Coast Guard has opened a temporary, alternate channel for vessels involved in the clearing of debris at the site of the collapsed Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore, part of a phased approach to opening the main channel leading to the vital port, officials said Monday. Crews are undertaking the complicated work of removing steel and concrete at the site of the bridge's deadly collapse into the Patapsco River after a container ship lost power and crashed into a supporting column. On Sunday, the AP reports, dive teams surveyed parts of the bridge and checked the ship, and workers in lifts used torches to cut above-water parts of the twisted steel superstructure.

Officials said the temporary channel is open primarily to vessels helping with the cleanup effort. Some barges and tugs that have been stuck in the Port of Baltimore since the collapse are also scheduled to pass through the channel on their way out of the harbor. Authorities believe four workers plunged to their deaths in the collapse. Maryland Gov. Wes Moore said at a Monday afternoon news conference that his top priority is recovering their bodies, followed by reopening shipping channels to the port. He said that he understands the urgency but that the risks are significant. Crews have described the mangled steel of the fallen bridge as "chaotic wreckage," he said, adding, "We have to move fast, but we cannot be careless."

Coast Guard Rear Adm. Shannon Gilreath said divers examining steel girders beneath the surface found them intertwined, making it difficult to figure out how to cut and lift them out of the water. "What we're finding is it is more complicated than we hoped for initially," Gilreath said. Moore said crews used a large crane to lift a 200-ton span of the bridge, which took 10 hours. He said the piece was a "relatively small lift" compared to what's to come. Two additional, larger channels are planned as more debris is removed from the waterway, per the AP, which officials said would allow more maritime traffic to resume. They did not provide a timeline.

(More Baltimore bridge collapse stories.)

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