Biden pledges to rebuild Baltimore bridge destroyed by deadly container ship collision

Joe Biden has promised to quickly rebuild a major bridge that was rammed by a container ship in a deadly collision on Tuesday. The incident plunged cars and workers into the icy waters below and blocked the busy port of Baltimore.

The president pledged to “move heaven and earth to reopen the port and rebuild the bridge as soon as humanly possible” – and said the federal government would pay.

Rescuers pulled out two survivors and searched for at least six people who were still missing in the Patapsco River after the 1.6-mile Francis Scott Key Bridge was turned into a pile of twisted metal.

Full story: Baltimore Key Bridge collapse updates

Although the impact happened at 1.30am local time, maintenance crews were repairing potholes on the road surface when the 948ft container ship Dali lost propulsion and slammed into a supporting pillar.

Brandon Scott, the mayor of Baltimore, called it “an unthinkable tragedy” and described the scene as “like something out of an action movie”.

The bridge carried 31,000 cars a day – 11.3 million vehicles a year – across the city harbour, and was the main interstate highway for drivers between New York and Washington who sought to avoid downtown Baltimore. It was opened in 1977 and was named after the author of the US national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner”.

Mr Biden said the US Coast Guard had responded quickly to a mayday call from the ship, and commended the fast action of Maryland officials who shut the bridge to traffic before it was struck and “undoubtedly saved lives”.

Jayme Krause, 32, was working a night shift at a logistics facility when she heard what sounded like an intense thunderstorm. A co-worker told her the bridge had collapsed and she ran out to look. “I went over there, and sure as anything, it was gone – the whole bridge was just like, there was nothing there,” she told reporters. “It was a shocking sight to see.”

The port remains closed while rescue efforts are under way, and could be blocked indefinitely until the missing vehicles and the wreckage of the bridge are recovered.

The disaster could be the worst US bridge collapse since 2007, when the I-35W bridge in Minneapolis collapsed into the Mississippi River killing 13 people.

The National Transportation Safety Board was reported to be sending a team to investigate, though there is no suggestion of foul play.

The Dali had been chartered by the Danish shipping company Maersk. “We are horrified by what has happened in Baltimore, and our thoughts are with all of those affected,”  Maersk said.

The Port of Baltimore is the busiest in the United States for car shipments, handling at least 750,000 vehicles in 2023.

Ford’s chief financial officer John Lawler said the collapse would force the company to make changes to its operations. “It’s going to have an impact,” he told Bloomberg. “We’ll have to divert parts to other ports… It will probably lengthen the supply chain a bit.”

The port handles imports and exports for major firms including Nissan, Toyota, General Motors, Volvo, Jaguar Land Rover, and the Volkswagen Group, which owns luxury car brands Audi, Lamborghini and Bentley.

General Motors and Ford Motor said they will reroute affected shipments, but the companies said the impact will be minimal.

More than 40 ships remain inside Baltimore port, including small cargo ships, tug boats and pleasure craft, according to data from ship tracking and maritime analytics provider MarineTraffic.


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