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As crews work to lift first piece of Baltimore bridge debris, officials eye a temporary channel around the collapse site

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As crews work to lift first piece of Baltimore bridge debris, officials eye a temporary channel around the collapse site

Crews are working to remove the first portion of

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– the starting point in a complicated, extensive cleanup process that could help open up a temporary channel to get more vessels into the water around the collapse site, officials said.

Clearing the channel will allow the search for the missing victims to continue and reopen a port critical to the local and

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, authorities said Saturday. In the meantime, conditions in the water make it unsafe for divers as pieces of the bridge remain submerged in the water.

“We have a ship that is nearly the size of the Eiffel Tower that is now stuck within the channel that has the Key Bridge sitting on top of it,” Maryland Gov. Wes Moore said Sunday CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Moore said work is underway to cut up some of the large sections of the bridge, with a massive crane on standby to lift them out of the channel. He did not specify when the port would reopen.

The 213-million-pound cargo vessel slammed into the Francis Scott Key Bridge last week,

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. The bodies of four victims have yet to be recovered. They are trapped in the tangle of steel and concrete underwater, authorities believe.

“Myself and my team will remain focused on ensuring no one forgets one of our critical priorities has to and will continue to be bringing home the remaining missing workers so we can bring closures to their families,” Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott said.

The cargo ship – about the length of three football fields – has as much as 4,000 tons of steel from the bridge’s frame hanging on its bow.

The ship’s hull is damaged but intact and north sections of the bridge will be cut up and removed, Moore said Saturday.

“This will eventually allow us to open up a temporary restricted channel that will help us to get more vessels in the water around the site of the collapse,” Moore said on Saturday.

More tugs, barges and boats can then move into the area “to accelerate our recovery,” the governor said.

The economic impact of the bridge collapse could be wide-ranging, as it has indefinitely halted the flow of ships in and out of the Port of Baltimore and delivered a stunning ***** to the thousands of dock workers who rely on the busy port.

“People have to remember this is not a this is not a Baltimore catastrophe, not a Maryland catastrophe,” Moore said Sunday. “This is a national economic catastrophe as well.”

The first debris lift – which involves using a using a 160-ton crane – marks the beginning of a long process toward reopening the port to tug and barge traffic, Rear Adm. Shannon Gilreath of the US Coast Guard said at the Saturday news conference. “Much like when you run a marathon, you’ve got to take the first few steps,” he added.

“If we can open up another (channel) that will help the economy here and move traffic in and out of the port of Baltimore, even if it’s not the deep draft, we wanna take advantage of that opportunity.” Gilreath said.

The port “handles more cars and more farm equipment more than any other port inside this country,” the governor said. Plus, “at least 8,000 workers on the docks have jobs that have been directly affected” by the collapse.

Moore announced Saturday that small businesses affected by the collapse can apply for disaster loans of up to $2 million from the federal government.

After the initial lift takes place, “there still needs to be an understanding of what forms of adjustments have happened,” the governor said.

In order to reopen the port, the Coast Guard says it will first clear debris from the deep draft channel, remove the ship, then clear debris from the bridge across the waterway.

“We are continuing to do diving just for the purposes of evaluating how we can actually potentially cut up portions of the bridge, how we can rig for future lifts with the cranes and how we can figure out exactly how to do this as safely as possible so that we can get that channel reopened,” Gilreath said Saturday.

Ongoing cleanup efforts have included isolating a section of an underwater natural gas pipeline, the Baltimore Gas and Electric Company told CNN in an email Saturday.

A spokesperson said the company has “intentionally released gas from that section as a proactive safety measure in support of the salvage operations” near the bridge. The work has not resulted in customer impacts or safety concerns, according to the spokesperson.

Divers could face uncertain conditions when they return to the water

The Dali container vessel after striking the Francis Scott Key Bridge on Tuesday, March 26, 2024. – Al Drago/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Diving operations were paused for the four missing victims because vehicles were found encased in concrete and other debris, making it unsafe for divers, Col. Roland L. Butler said last week.

After search efforts were halted, remote vehicles were sent down with sonar that plotted what exactly fell deep into the Patapsco River after the collapse, Butler said Wednesday. Drones and infrared technology were also used as part of the search.

Once salvage operations clear the debris, divers resuming the search for the victims could be faced with a difficult task, according to Mark Martin of marine survey and salvage company at SalvOcean LLC.

“The current there is quite fast and having spent a number of days submerged in Baltimore Harbor, I can tell you that you can never see more than one or two feet in front of your face,” Martin told CNN Saturday.

Still, the current isn’t heavy enough to shift larger pieces of debris, Martin said.

“Once those things start getting cut up, then you have to be careful, you’re gonna have to monitor the current, the direction, the speed, all of those things,” he said.

Sonar is typically continually monitoring any movement of the ship. With the amount of weight on the bow of the ship, Martin said he believes the only movement could be the bow sinking deeper into the sand than it already is.

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

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Baltimore,Wes Moore,Francis Scott Key Bridge,bridge collapse,Clearing the channel,Shannon Gilreath,the port,missing victims,Mayor Brandon Scott
#crews #work #lift #piece #Baltimore #bridge #debris #officials #eye #temporary #channel #collapse #site

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