Cranes, tugboats and barges converge in Baltimore Bridge clear up efforts

Credit: AP

Seven floating cranes, 10 tugboats and nine barges are among the vessels involved in the enormous clean-up job taking place following the collapse of Baltimore's Francis Scott Bridge early on Tuesday morning.

A crane appeared at the site of the collapsed highway bridge in Baltimore as crews prepared on Friday to begin clearing wreckage that has hindered the search for four workers who remain missing.

The remains of the bridge have also blocked ships from entering or leaving the city’s vital port.

A crane that can lift 1,000 tonnes — described as the largest on the Eastern Seaboard — had been expected to arrive late on Thursday, and a second that can lift 400 tonnes should arrive on Saturday, officials said.

They will be used to clear the channel of the twisted metal and concrete remnants of the Francis Scott Key Bridge, as well as the cargo ship that hit it this week.

Divers had already recovered the bodies of two men from a pickup truck in the Patapsco River, but the nature and placement of the debris has complicated efforts to find the four workers still missing.

Barges with cranes float near a damaged section of the Francis Scott Key Bridge. Credit: AP

Authorities have said they are now presumed dead.

“The divers can put their hands on that faceplate, and they can’t even see their hands,” Donald Gibbons, an instructor with Eastern Atlantic States Carpenters Technical Centers, said.

“So we say zero visibility. It’s very similar to locking yourself in a dark closet on a dark night and really not being able to see anything.”

Divers must cut up debris to remove it, he said, likening it to playing pick-up sticks, since items at the bottom can’t move without disturbing the whole pile.

Credit: AP

“So we use underwater burning and underwater cutting solutions to help make those pieces smaller so that when we do cut them away, we’re not affecting the entire pile,” said Mr Gibbons, who is not involved in the Baltimore effort.

Meanwhile, President Joe Biden’s administration approved $60 million (£47.5 million) in immediate aid.

Mr Biden has said the federal government will pay the full cost of rebuilding the bridge.

Ship traffic at the Port of Baltimore remains suspended, but the Maryland Port Administration said in a statement on Friday that trucks were still being processed at marine terminals.

“There is a lot of speculation as to when the channel will be reopened,” the agency said. “The fact of the matter is we do not know.”

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