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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

White House warns of ‘difficult path’ to Baltimore port recovery

A Coast Guard boat passes in front of the collapsed Francis Scott Key Bridge and the cargo ship Dali after it struck the bridge in Baltimore, on Tuesday morning, March 26, 2024. Six construction workers who had been fixing potholes on the Francis Scott Key Bridge remained missing as divers and other emergency workers on boats and helicopters continued to search for them. Two others had been rescued. (Pete Kiehart/The New York Times)

By Jacey Fortin, Daniel Victor and Victoria Kim

The Biden administration on Wednesday pledged an aggressive effort to reopen the Port of Baltimore, but Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg warned of a “long and difficult path” to full recovery, including the rebuilding of the Francis Scott Key Bridge, whose tangled remains lay across the massive cargo ship that rammed into it.

Federal investigators planned an update later Wednesday on what they have learned after gathering data recordings, exploring the ship and interviewing key witnesses in an effort to piece together the disaster that appeared to have taken six lives. Officials said there was no threat to the public from the spilled cargo containers or fuel on board.

Officials were scrambling to limit the economic impact of the disaster, which severed Interstate 695 and upended operations at one of the nation’s busiest ports, causing a major disruption to shipping and global supply chains that is likely to ripple for weeks. State representatives proposed replacing income for workers who were affected by the bridge collapse, and President Joe Biden called on the federal government to pay for the “entire cost” of the bridge’s reconstruction.

“Rebuilding will not be quick, or easy or cheap,” Buttigieg told reporters at the White House on Wednesday, “but we will get it done.”

More immediately, rescue divers were working through dangerous conditions, facing frigid waters, moving tides and mangled metal in an effort to recover the bodies of six construction workers who plunged into the cold water as the bridge fell. Two surviving workers had been pulled from the river Tuesday.

Officials made progress in understanding the events that led to a massive cargo ship, a Singapore-flagged vessel nearly three football fields in length, losing propulsion as it left Baltimore, striking the bridge early Tuesday. On Tuesday night, the National Transportation Safety Board recovered data from the ship’s voyage data recorder, which an official described as essentially the ship’s “black box.”

Here are more details:

— Officials said that shortly before the impact, the ship, called the Dali, suffered a “complete blackout” and issued a mayday warning, prompting traffic to be stopped at both ends of the bridge and averting a larger tragedy.

— One of the missing workers is a Honduran citizen, Maynor Yasir Suazo Sandoval, in his 30s, who had been living in the United States for two decades, according to Honduras’ migrant protection service. A nonprofit organization that provides services to the immigrant community in Baltimore identified another as Miguel Luna, a 40-year-old father of three from El Salvador.

— Ships belonging to Grace Ocean Private Ltd., the owner of the Dali, have been cited in recent years for labor violations — including underpaying crews and holding crew members on board for months past their contracts, according to the Australian Maritime Safety Authority.

— The NTSB said its investigation would look into the structure of the bridge, including what protective structures existed around its pylons. Buttigieg called the disaster a “unique circumstance,” saying he doubted that any bridge could have withstood a direct impact of such magnitude.


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1 Comment

Oscar Melendez
Oscar Melendez
Apr 01

They should have an army of barges cranes and workers speeding the reconstruction

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