‘Years of work’: Crane arrives for mammoth bridge clean-up

Baltimore bridge collapses

Source: BNO News

The biggest operational crane on the US eastern seaboard is towering over Baltimore’s port, as the enormity of the looming clean-up and repair work after last week’s disaster begins to emerge.

Crews were still surveying the damage to the Francis Scott Key Bridge on Friday (US time), days after a cargo ship crashed into it, sending the span crashing into the harbour.

The crane, which can lift up to more than 900,000 kilograms, arrived late on Thursday and would probably start hauling debris out of the water on Saturday morning, US Coast Guard spokesperson Carmen Carver said.

A second crane was expected to arrive soon to assist the effort.

State and federal authorities are focused on clearing the busy port and rebuilding the bridge after the Dali, a massive container ship that had lost power, ploughed into a support column early on Tuesday, toppling the structure and leaving six workers presumed dead.

Divers have recovered two bodies of the missing construction workers, who were repairing the bridge at the time of the collision. The remaining four are believed to be trapped beneath the water. All were immigrants from Mexico and Central America.

Finding the remaining bodies was the top priority, Maryland Governor Wes Moore said on Thursday.

But the wreckage must be cleared before anyone can reach the bodies. Crews must also assess how to remove the stuck vessel, which is loaded with thousands of containers and trapped by bridge debris.

“The Dali is almost as long as the Eiffel Tower, and the Dali has the Key Bridge on top of it. We’re talking 3000 or 4000 tonnes of steel that’s sitting on top of that ship, so we’ve got work to do,” Moore said on Thursday.

“When you have a chance to see that wreckage up close, you fully understand the enormity of the challenge. Our timeline will be long.”

baltimore bridge collapse

Source: Getty

Within hours of Moore’s request for emergency funds, the US government on Thursday had awarded Maryland $US60 million ($92 million) to clear debris and begin rebuilding the bridge, a reflection of how critical the infrastructure is to shipping and transportation industries along the eastern seaboard.

Three days after the tragedy, the jobs of some 15,000 people whose work revolves around daily port operation are on hold. Maryland politicians are looking to pass emergency legislation to provide income replacement for those affected, the state senate president said.

The situation posed a temporary risk to the area’s economy, as the port received the greatest share of US vehicle imports and was one of just four on the US east coast with the 15-metre channel needed for larger cargo boats, bond rating agency Moody’s Investors Service said.

Replacing the 47-year-old bridge will likely require “years of work,” but the port, whose operations recently surpassed pre-pandemic levels, could reopen within weeks, “if debris is rapidly removed”, according to a Moody’s report.

“As long as the port is closed, diversion of automotive imports and other cargo to other east coast ports will erode Baltimore’s advantage as the port closest to the Midwest, to the detriment of terminal operators,” the report said.

Even clearing a channel large enough for ships to pass through could take a month after the cranes begin work, an expect has told CNN.

The expert said it would like take longer than that to remove all the debris, but clearing the 360-metre area between the two pillars that supported the bridge’s main span would be enough to reopen the port to traffic.

-with AAP

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