Biden visits site of Baltimore bridge collapse for the first time

Credit: AP

US President Joe Biden received a firsthand look at efforts to clear away the hulking remains of the collapsed Francis Scott Key Bridge on Friday.

Six people were killed on the night of March 26 when the Baltimore bridge was hit by a huge cargo ship - only two bodies have been recovered.

Cranes, ships and diving crews have been working to reopen one of the nation's main shipping lanes.

Biden was given updates from the US Coast Guard and Army Corps of Engineers.

The eight workers who fell in - all immigrants from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras or El Salvador - were filling potholes when it collapsed. Two were rescued.

The president plans to meet with the families of the victims.

Officials have established a temporary, alternate channel for vessels involved in clearing debris.

The Army Corps of Engineers hopes to open a limited-access channel for barge container ships and some vessels moving cars and farm equipment by the end of this month and to restore normal capacity to Baltimore's port by May 31, the White House says.

That's important since longer delays in reopening shipping lanes could send shockwaves through the US economy.

As much as $200 million in cargo normally moves through Baltimore’s port per day, and it is the leading hub for importing and exporting vehicles.

Biden takes helicopter tour of the site of the Baltimore bridge collapse. Credit: AP

Of more immediate concern might be covering the costs of cleanup and building a new bridge.

The Federal Highway Administration has provided $60 million in “quick release” emergency relief funds to get started.

Exactly how much the collapse will cost is unclear, though some experts estimate recovery will take at least $400 million and 18 months.

Biden said within hours of the collapse that “the federal government will pay for the entire cost of reconstructing that bridge, and I expect the Congress to support my effort.”

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