Crews remove first piece of Baltimore bridge wreckage from water

Crews on Saturday began the process of cutting and removing the first piece of wreckage from the Francis Scott Key Bridge, which collapsed into the Patapsco River last week after being struck by a cargo ship.

The move marks the beginning of an extensive undertaking to remove the twisted steel from the bridge, which will eventually help open a temporary restricted channel to get more vessels into the water around the collapse site, Maryland Gov. Wes Moore (D) said during a Saturday press conference.

A cargo ship, named Dali, was on its way to Sri Lanka overnight last Tuesday when it smashed into the Francis Scott Key Bridge, causing it to crumble into the water. Officials said the 984-foot Singapore-flagged ship lost power when attempting to leave the Baltimore Harbor.

Demolition crews on Saturday used two crane barges to cut the top portion of the north side of the collapsed bridge truss. Video released by the joint incident command showed sparks flying from the steel as crews used a cutting torch to slice through it.

A Coast Guard Station Crisfield 29-foot response boat-small crew observes as demolition crews cut the top portion of the north side of the collapsed Francis Scott Key Bridge into smaller sections for safe removal by crane in the Patapsco River, in Baltimore. (Petty Officer 3rd Class Kimberly Reaves/U.S. Coast Guard via AP)

“This is going to take time to clear this section of the collapse. It’s not going to take hours, it’s not going to take days. But once we complete this phase of the work, we can move more tugs and more barges and more boats into the area to accelerate our recovery,” Moore said.

“This is not just about Maryland, this is about our nation’s economy,” he continued. “The port handles more cars and more farm equipment … than any other port inside of this country, and at least 8,000 workers on the docks have jobs that have been directly affected by this collapse.”

Moore reiterated that the bridge cannot be rebuilt until the wreckage is cleared, calling the removal a “remarkably complex operation.”

“I said yesterday we cannot rebuild the bridge until we have cleared the wreckage, but we’re going to get this done. We will clear the wreckage, we will move the dolly and we will rebuild the Francis Scott bridge,” he said.

Four construction workers who were filling potholes on the bridge at the time of the incident remain missing and are presumed dead among the wreckage. Two other individuals were rescued last Tuesday, and the bodies of two workers were later recovered from a truck submerged in the water.

The search for the missing stopped Wednesday afternoon because of risks related to the concrete, debris and superstructure believed to be around the vehicles. Moore said divers will resume the search once it is safe to do so.

“The conditions make it unsafe for rescue divers. But as soon as those conditions change … those rescue divers will be going right back in the water,” he said.

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