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Pete Buttigieg commits federal resources to Baltimore bridge collapse recovery

cargo container ship Dali crash collapse Francis Scott Key Bridge Baltimore Maryland US Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg
Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images; Shutterstock

Bridge crash; Pete Buttigieg

From the scene of the Francis Scott Key Bridge collapse, the transportation secretary promised that the Biden-Harris administration would be there to help the area recover.

In Maryland, after the catastrophic collapse of Baltimore’s Francis Scott Key Bridge early Tuesday, federal, state, and local officials have united to navigate the aftermath and begin the journey toward recovery. U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, in a press conference, relayed President Joe Biden’s assurance of unwavering federal support.

“The federal government will provide all of the support that they need for as long as it takes,” Buttigieg said. He acknowledged the significant impact of the collapse, describing the bridge as “one of the cathedrals of American infrastructure,” and stressed the commitment to rebuilding despite acknowledging the challenges ahead.

Maryland Gov. Wes Moore revealed that Buttigieg contacted him at 3 a.m. Tuesday, illustrating the swift response from federal officials to the incident.

Earlier from the White House, Biden assured comprehensive federal support for the recovery and rebuilding efforts, noting the critical economic significance of the Port of Baltimore and the anticipated challenges in reconstructing this vital infrastructure.

Buttigieg echoed the president’s commitment and recognized the daunting path to recovery.

“We will rebuild together,” Buttigieg promised.

He also detailed the mobilization of various federal agencies to assist in the aftermath, emphasizing the swift federal response initiated by his early-morning conversation with Moore.

Buttigieg outlined a comprehensive federal plan with immediate departmental readiness to approve emergency funding upon request. Furthermore, the Maritime Administration is set to support port, harbor, and supply chain operations, while the Federal Highway Administration will focus on the bridge’s restoration and mitigate roadway congestion for affected residents and commuters, Buttigieg said. The Federal Aviation Administration is tasked with maintaining clear airspace for emergency operations, and the Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration is addressing any hazardous material concerns on site. Additionally, he noted that a newly established freight office is preemptively managing anticipated supply chain disruptions due to the port’s critical role in the national economy.

Buttigieg said his department has also engaged with Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to integrate security resources. He said that while the immediate priority remains on emergency operations and supporting the impacted families, the overarching goal is to rebuild the bridge and the port, thereby ensuring Baltimore’s resilience and recovery. “I have no doubt that we will rebuild together and that Baltimore will come back stronger than ever before,” Buttigieg said.

The U.S. Coast Guard and local emergency responders have reported one fatality, with six people from a construction crew that was working on the bridge at the time of its collapse still missing, CNN reports. Earlier, two people were rescued from the cold waters of the Patapsco River, with one uninjured and the other taken to a trauma center with serious injuries.

The National Transportation Safety Board took the lead in investigating the cause of the collapse. Initial reports suggest that a loss of power led to the container ship Dali’s collision with the bridge after 1 a.m. Tuesday following a Mayday report from the crew.

A harrowing video captured at 1:28 a.m. depicts the moment the cargo ship collided with a support pillar, causing the bridge to collapse into the water below. Streamed live footage shows vehicles traversing the bridge seconds before the disaster.

The Dali experienced a sudden blackout four minutes before the collision, its lights extinguishing only to come back on shortly after, the video shows. By 1:25 a.m., dark smoke was seen billowing from the ship’s chimney, signaling distress. A minute later, the vessel turned, and in the moments preceding the impact, the ship’s lights flickered off and on again, adding a surreal quality to the impending disaster.

In 2023, the Port of Baltimore ranked as the 11th largest in the United States, distinguishing itself as the nation’s premier port for car imports and exports by managing the transportation of over 750,000 vehicles, according to the Maryland Port Administration’s data.

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