Workers remove first piece of Key Bridge as salvage operation continues

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Workers removed the first segment of the collapsed Francis Key Scott Bridge on Sunday as officials began to salvage the mangled remains of the bridge and a cargo ship from the Patapsco River so they can reopen the Port of Baltimore.

Operators removed a 200-ton section of the bridge’s Span 19, according to a statement Sunday morning from the office of Democratic Gov. Wes Moore.

Workers are lifting and transferring parts of the wreckage to a barge during daylight, and using a 230-ton crane to offload and process those parts at Tradepoint Atlantic in Sparrows Point, according to a joint statement from the Coast Guard, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Maryland Department of the Environment, the Maryland Transportation Authority, the Maryland State Police, and officials representing cargo ship’s owner and manager.

The Singapore-flagged vessel, the Dali, struck the bridge shortly before 1:30 a.m. Tuesday and has been aground since with a section of the structure weighing on its bow. Authorities planned to conduct a grounding survey late Sunday to determine how hard the ground is surrounding the vessel, according to Moore’s office.

Several Maryland politicians emphasized Sunday the need to make rapid progress toward opening the port.

Moore underlined the economic burden created by the closure of the Port of Baltimore, one of the largest in the U.S. in terms of the volume of auto and farm equipment handled there, when he appeared on “Fox News Sunday.”

“It’s not just a massive impact on Maryland, this is a massive impact on the national economy,” Moore said. “It’s impacting the farmer in Kentucky and the auto dealer in Ohio. It’s impacting the restaurants in Louisiana and Tennessee.”

U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said there was no timeline for reopening the port. He spoke on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

“This is going to be a very complex process,” Buttigieg said. “There are a lot of forces acting on that steel, so it takes a lot to make sure that it can be dismantled safely.”

During an appearance on ABC’s “This Week,” U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen said that the federal government intends to pay 90% of the cost of rebuilding the bridge using emergency relief funds, and that he and fellow Maryland Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin plan to introduce legislation to handle the remaining 10%. The Army Corps of Engineers will cover “all the costs of clearing the channel,” he said.

Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott, a Democrat, spoke to the need to help families on “Face the Nation.”

Scott said his administration’s focus is on assisting the families of six construction workers who died after falling into the river when the ship struck the bridge. The city has $300,000 in aid for them to access, including trauma care.

Sunday work around the Key Bridge | PHOTOS

“As I said from day one, my office will be there to support the families in every way possible,” Scott said.

Another priority is helping the 15,000 idled workers whose livelihoods are in limbo while the port remains closed. Scott said he would meet Monday with local labor officials and other leaders to continue those efforts, which include working with the U.S. Small Business Administration to offer loans to impacted businesses.

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“This is going to be a long road,” he said. “This is not a sprint.”

Scott, 39, also addressed racist remarks he and other Black Maryland leaders received from critics who falsely attributed the bridge collapse to diversity, equity and inclusion efforts and called him a “DEI mayor.”

“I am a young Black man and young Black mayor in this country,” Scott said. “We know there are a lot of racist folks who think I shouldn’t be in this job. I didn’t want to be out there that night answering questions about DEI. I’m worried about the loss of life.”

The catastrophe was a subject of the NBC sketch comedy show “Saturday Night Live,” which used the bridge collapse to take jabs at Democratic President Joe Biden and Boeing during its “Weekend Update” segment.

“This week, Baltimore’s Francis Scott Key Bridge collapsed after it was struck by a cargo ship that was carrying, you won’t believe it — Boeing airplanes,” co-host Colin Jost joked, referring to the aircraft manufacturer’s recent safety-related woes.

“President Biden said Friday that he would visit the site of the Baltimore bridge collapse — because like that bridge, Biden is no longer connecting with Black communities,” said his fellow co-host, Michael Che.

The president is expected to visit Baltimore this week.