Francis Scott Key Bridge: Crews begin removing debris from water

Francis Scott Key Bridge

BALTIMORE — Crews in Baltimore were working to remove the first pieces of wreckage from the waters of the Patapsco River on Saturday, the first steps toward reopening the shipping channel after a freighter struck the Francis Scott Key Bridge, causing it to collapse early Tuesday.

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U.S. Coast Guard Rear Adm. Shannon Gilreath said at a news conference on Saturday that his crew was aiming to lift the first segment of the bridge “just north of that deep draft shipping channel,” The New York Times reported.

Gilreath said the task was expected to be long and arduous.

“Much like when you run a marathon, you’ve got to take the first few steps,” Gilreath told reporters.

Gov. Wes Moore said that large cranes are being used to clear the area of a substantial piece of the bridge after its collapse, WBAL-TV reported.

“The north sections of the Key Bridge are going to be cut up and removed,” Moore said during Saturday’s news conference. “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.”

Seven floating cranes -- including one capable of hoisting 1,000 tons -- were at the site of the bridge collapse southeast of Baltimore, according to The Associated Press. There were also 10 tugboats, nine barges, eight salvage vessels and five Coast Guard vessels in the area, the news organization reported.

Officials said the section of the bridge still on top of the freighter weighs between 3,000 and 4,000 tons, WJZ-TV reported. That is why workers are cutting pieces of the bridge into smaller pieces. That will allow the Army Corps of Engineers can start moving the debris out of the water, according to the television station.

Moore said that more than 8,000 dock workers have been affected by the bridge collapse. Baltimore is one of the largest ports in the United States, and the Francis Scott Key Bridge was a critical link, the Times reported.

The bridge collapsed early Tuesday when the Dali, a container ship, struck the span. Six construction workers were killed; crews have recovered two bodies and suspended the search for the other four presumed dead after officials decided it was too dangerous for divers to try to find them.

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