Baltimore causeway collapse: Here's how crews will clear up to 4,000 tons of debris to find victims



CNN

The largest crane on the East Coast will soon attempt to lift the treacherous, massive wreckage that has hampered search crews from finding victims this week. The catastrophic Baltimore Bridge collapse.

The Chesapeake 1000 — a giant floating crane — came close to the scene Friday when the 213-million-pound cargo ship crashed into the Francis Scott Key Bridge, destroying the main thoroughfare. Six construction workers were killed. The bodies of 4 of them were not found.

The crane can lift 1,000 tons of trash, Maryland Gov. Wes Moore said Friday. But “one of the challenges is the key bridge that sits on top of the ship now, and that weight is between 3,000-4,000 tons,” Moore said.

This means that large amounts of debris must be cut before disposal. But crews will try to work quickly so they can continue searching for missing victims and reopen the cargo channel, which is vital to local and national economies — a process officials say could take weeks.

Brian Witte/AP

A Chesapeake 1000 crane is docked at Sparrows Point, Maryland, on Friday.

Live Notifications: The Baltimore Bridge is the latest to collapse

More heavy equipment is expected at the scene in the coming weeks. That includes seven floating cranes, 10 tugs, nine barges, eight rescue vessels and five Coast Guard boats, Moore said.

The governor said workers at the scene still faced an “incredibly complex job.”

“If you get a chance to see those ruins up close, you will fully understand the enormity of the challenge,” the governor said. “Our timeline will be long.”

Julia Nickinson/Reuters

Steel, concrete and other debris piled up at the crash site.

A 4,000-tonne steel frame has been dangling from its bow since the cargo ship – about three football fields long – plowed into the drawbridge. A crew of construction workers drowned to the cold water below.

According to Scott Spellmon, commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, it could take days before the first portion of the massive debris is cut away. More than 1,000 engineers in Baltimore and around the country are examining the wreckage piece by piece to find the best plan to remove it.

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“I believe this type of analysis will take several more days before we start cutting and lifting organs,” Spellman told CNN. “There's a big steel truss bridge across that canal and down there, maybe 50 feet down, there's probably some containers and other heavy debris that needs to get off the ground.”

He added that it could take weeks for the channel to reopen. “I don't think we're talking days, I don't think we're talking months … I think we're talking weeks,” he said. “I can't put a number on it yet until our analysis is complete.”

Only two workers survived. The two bodies were later retrieved from the water. Officials believe the remaining four are trapped underwater in steel and concrete.

Rescuing the victims is the priority, and “it's our duty to bring some sense of closure to these families,” Moore said.

Apart from the loss of human life, the destruction of the main bridge and the closing of Baltimore Harbor will lead to widespread economic fallout.

The port is the largest in the United States for handling cars and light trucks A record 850,000 vehicles Last year, Moore said.

A month after the necessary equipment arrived on the scene, demolition workers could clear a channel large enough for ships to pass through. An expert in the field He is well aware of the ongoing debates.

The expert, who spoke to CNN on the condition that his name not be used, said it will take longer than that to remove all the debris. But clearing the 1,200-foot section between the two piers that support the bridge's main span will be enough to reopen the port to traffic.

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A riser of more than 2,400 feet has been used to contain possible contamination spillage from the vessel, Moore said.

National Transportation Safety Board investigators said 56 containers on board contained hazardous materials, mostly corrosives and flammables, as well as some lithium-ion batteries.

Maryland Sen. The Army will pay the full cost of removing the channel where the bridge collapsed. Chris Van Hollen said.

The governor said federal transportation officials would provide Moore's requested $60 million “down payment” to clean up and rebuild the Key Bridge. Funds will be used to clear debris, reroute traffic and eventually rebuild the bridge.

Maryland could later request additional funding, and the state's congressional representatives said they would press fellow lawmakers to fund the rebuilding plan.

The economic fallout from the bridge's collapse would be vast, as the crisis halted the flow of ships in and out of Baltimore Harbor indefinitely. Must rely on busy port.

“It's not just about Maryland, it's about the nation's economy,” Moore said Thursday.

“This port handles more cars and more agricultural equipment than any other port in the United States. At least 8,000 workers at the docks have jobs directly affected by the collapse.

The governor said the Maryland Department of Labor has established an unemployment insurance hotline to help port workers.

Ports on the East Coast are preparing to temporarily accommodate cargo shipments that may arrive in Baltimore.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg told CNN Thursday that several sectors will need to overhaul supply chains, including rail and trucking operations.

Earlier, the governors of New York and New Jersey said their Port Authority can take Additional inventory to reduce supply chain disruptions.

Managing supply chain disruptions and reopening the port “is not going to be a small project by any stretch,” Buttigieg said.

“We know it's going to be expensive,” he said. “But we know the cost is worth it to get Baltimore back on its feet, get everything back to normal, and support our transportation systems and supply chains.”

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The National Transportation Safety Board is collecting evidence at the scene of the accident, interviewing witnesses and reviewing the ship's data records.

Two pilots who were involved in guiding the ship out of port were expected to be interviewed by authorities on Thursday. The ship's captain, his mate, the chief engineer and another engineer have already spoken to investigators, NTSB Chairman Jennifer Homandy said.

Investigators used audio and data from the 213 million pound vessel's voyage data recorder to extract clues about what happened in the moments before the collision.

Peter Knutson/NTSB/Manual/Getty Images

In this NTSB manual, an investigator examines the Francis Scott Key Bridge that collapsed from the freighter Daly on March 27 in Baltimore.

The first sign of distress came within three minutes Before the accident Homendi said the cargo ship's pilot radioed for tugboats in the area to respond to the ship.

Within a minute, police officers at both ends of the bridge were ordered to stop traffic crossing the bridge, said Marcel Muse, the NTSB investigator in charge of the wreck investigation. Officials have praised the quick action for saving lives.

During the first full day Wednesday, investigators saw the “absolute devastation” of the wrecked bridge — pieces of which were still draped over the ship's bow, Homandy said.

The Singaporean-flagged container ship Dally was carrying 23 people – 21 crew and two pilots. Of the crew members, 20 were Indians who were in “good condition” after the crash, India's External Affairs Ministry said on Thursday.

CNN's Justin Lear, Andy Rose, Sarah Dewberry, Chris Isidore, David Goldman, Paradise Afshar, Greg Wallace, Aaron Cooper, Elise Hammond, Tori B. Powell, Vedika Sud, Sania Farooqui and Chris Boyette contributed to this report.

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