Biden Takes Aerial Tour of Baltimore Bridge Disaster

BALTIMORE, MARYLAND - APRIL 05: U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks at the Maryland Transportation Authority Police Headquarters, near the site of the collapsed Francis Scott Key Bridge, on April 05, 2024 in Baltimore, Maryland. The bridge collapsed after being struck by the 984-foot cargo ship Dali at 1:30 AM on March 26. President Biden traveled to Baltimore for an aerial tour of the salvage operation of the bridge and to meet with families of the six victims who were working to repair potholes on the bridge when it collapsed. | Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

President Joe Biden took an aerial tour on Friday of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore, which collapsed on March 26 after a container ship exiting the port lost power and collided with the bridge’s structural support.

The inspection marks the first time Biden has visited the site since the collapse. According to reporting from The New York Times, Biden met with the families of the six construction workers who are believed to have died in the accident.

The ship, the Dali, issued a mayday call before impact, giving authorities enough time to stop traffic on the bridge but not enough time to remove the eight construction workers. Two of the workers were rescued, and the remains of two others have been recovered. The remaining four workers were not recovered and are presumed dead.

“I’m here to say your nation has your back,” Biden said. “The damage is devastating, and our hearts are still breaking,” Biden said, per NYT. “I’ve come here to grieve with you. It’s not the same, but I know a little bit about what it’s like to lose a piece of your soul.”

Biden previously said he wanted the federal government to pay for the bridge’s rebuilding.

Lawsuits are likely and could involve the insurance company covering the ship’s owner, the shipping company, and many others. However, litigation will take many years before a settlement is arrived at. In the meantime, Biden said authorities are working on a plan to reopen shipping to the port, which is one of the country’s busiest. So far, the administration has provided $60 million in taxpayer money for clean-up efforts, as reported by NYT.

The Army Corps of Engineers stated that a partial shipping channel would be opened by the end of April. Additionally, a deep water channel is anticipated to be opened by the end of May to allow full shipping to resume at the port.

Baltimore is an essential shipping port for vehicle imports and exports of numerous commodities. According to a U.S. Department of Labor press release, “Maryland estimates that 270,000 direct, indirect, or induced jobs will be affected by [the] collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge and reduction of operations at the Port of Baltimore.”

Maryland has instituted several relief programs in the wake of the disaster. It has received $3.5 million in federal emergency dislocated worker grant funding to help the workers affected by the tragedy, per the press release.

The Francis Scott Key Bridge, built in 1977, was named after the writer of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” It is anticipated that rebuilding the bridge will take several years. The bridge was a vital transportation route that carried 30,000 vehicles daily.

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