First vessel uses alternate channel to bypass Baltimore wreckage


BALTIMORE: A tugboat pushing a fuel barge was the first vessel to use an alternate channel to bypass the wreckage of Baltimore’s collapsed Francis Scott Key Bridge, which had blocked traffic along the vital port’s main shipping channel.

The barge supplying jet fuel to the Department of Defense left late Monday (Apr 1) and was destined for Delaware’s Dover Air Force Base, though officials have said the temporary channel is open primarily to vessels that are helping with the cleanup effort. Some barges and tugs that have been stuck in the Port of Baltimore since the collapse are also scheduled to pass through the channel.

Officials said they’re working on a second channel on the southwest side of the main channel that will allow for deeper draft vessels, but they didn’t say when that might open.

Gov. Wes Moore is set Tuesday to visit one of two centers that the Small Business Administration  opened in the area to help companies get loans to assist them with losses caused by the disruption of the bridge collapse.

Crews are undertaking the complicated work of removing steel and concrete at the site of the bridge’s deadly collapse after a container ship lost power and crashed into a supporting column.

On Sunday, dive teams surveyed parts of the bridge and checked the ship, and workers in lifts used torches to cut above-water parts of the twisted steel superstructure.

RECOVERING BODIES IS TOP PRIORITY

Authorities believe six workers plunged to their deaths in the collapse, including two whose bodies were recovered last week. Two other workers survived.

Moore, a Democrat, said at a Monday afternoon news conference that his top priority is recovering the four remaining bodies, followed by reopening shipping channels. He said that he understands the urgency but that the risks are significant. Crews have described the mangled steel girders of the fallen bridge as “chaotic wreckage,” he said.

“What we’re finding is it is more complicated than we hoped for initially,” said US Coast Guard Rear Admiral Shannon Gilreath.

Meanwhile, the ship remains stationary, and its 21 crew members remain on board for now, officials said.

President Joe Biden is expected to visit the collapse site Friday to meet with state and local officials and get at federal response efforts.

The bridge fell as the cargo ship Dali lost power March 26 shortly after leaving Baltimore on its way to Sri Lanka. The ship issued a mayday alert, which allowed just enough time for police to stop traffic, but not enough to save a roadwork crew filling potholes on the bridge.



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