Baltimore bridge collapse: six declared dead as investigators recover black box | Baltimore bridge collapse

The scope of the bridge disaster in Baltimore widened on Wednesday as six construction workers were declared to be dead and investigators recovered the black box from the ship whose crash brought one of America’s busiest ports to a grinding halt.

Authorities were continuing their investigation into the collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge after the Singaporean-flagged container ship Dali crashed into it on early Tuesday morning while en route to Sri Lanka.

Six members of a construction crew filling potholes on the bridge who were missing following the incident are now presumed dead. Two other people were rescued. One was hospitalized at the Cowley shock trauma center in Baltimore before being later discharged.

The US transportation secretary, Pete Buttigieg, shared his condolences with the victims’ families, saying: “Tragically, six people did lose their lives and a seventh was badly injured. These were workers who went out to work on a night shift, repairing the road service while most of us slept.”

Buttigieg also warned of a “major and protracted impact to supply chains”. Baltimore is the ninth busiest port in the US and the busiest for car shipments. General Motors and Ford announced they will reroute affected shipments, and Maersk, the shipping company that had chartered the Dali, said it was diverting shipments and offering to help clients book road transportation from other ports.

Lawmakers in Maryland drafted an emergency bill to cover the salaries of workers who have been affected by the shutdown of the port following the disaster.

Posting on social media, Bill Ferguson, the state senate president, said more 15,000 people in the region rely on daily port operations “to put food on the table”.

“The human cost of lives lost yesterday is overwhelming and tragic. The economic and stability loss to the thousands impacted in the days ahead cannot be understated,” Ferguson said.

A truck was recovered from the Patapsco River on Wednesday morning, and a memo from the Department of Homeland Security confirmed that at least one vehicle remained hanging from the metal.

The governor of Maryland, Wes Moore, praised divers’ recovery efforts, which have been complicated by shifting debris in the frigid waters, one of the main reasons cited for calling off the search and rescue mission.

Moore said: “I can’t express enough the heroism of these folks. They are in frigid conditions. They are down there in darkness, where they can literally see about a foot in front of them. They are trying to navigate mangled metal. And they’re also in a place … that it is now presumed that people have lost their lives.

“I cannot express enough how remarkable these individuals are.”

Karine Jean-Pierre, the White House press secretary, said on Wednesday that Joe Biden, who promised on Tuesday to pay the cost of the reconstruction in full, was being apprised of the latest developments and had pledged to “move heaven and earth to aid in the emergency response and help rebuild the bridge as soon as humanly possible”.

Although the bridge collapse and widespread disruption to traffic and travel have caused ripples in the region, experts said the effect on the broader US economy or inflation would probably be limited. But Salvatore Mercogliano, a shipping expert and history professor at Campbell University, said the biggest issue following the collapse will revolve around the export of coal.

“Baltimore is a major port for the export of coal, and it’s not like you can move the coal to another facility because you need specialised facilities for that … and those that do exist are largely at capacity. Shutting down the port of Baltimore is going to have a major impact on the transportation of energy out of the United States,” Mercogliano said.

Jesús Campos, a construction worker, said he knew the missing crew members and that the men all worked for the construction company Brawner Builders.

“It’s a difficult situation… my friends were working on that bridge,” Campos said, adding that the workers were low-income immigrants who used their wages to support their families in the US and abroad.

The named victims include 49-year-old Miguel Luna from El Salvador, a husband and father of three who lived in Maryland for over 19 years, and 38-year-old Maynor Yassir Suazo Sandoval, originally from Azacualpa in Honduras, a married father of two who had lived in the US for 18 years and launched his own maintenance business.

Guatemala’s foreign ministry also confirmed that two of the six workers were Guatemalan nationals, aged 26 and 35 and originally from San Luis, Petén, and Camotán, Chiquimula respectively.

Mexico’s president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, said three Mexican nationals were also working on the bridge when it collapsed. He added that one was rescued alive while two others remain missing.

In a statement released on Wednesday, the Mexican foreign ministry said that the person who was rescued was originally from Michoacán and was recovering from his injuries. The two people who are missing were originally from Veracruz and Michoacán, the ministry said.

A crowdfunding campaign set up by the Latino Racial Justice Circle, a non-profit organization serving the Baltimore area, has raised over $47,000 for the victims’ families as of Wednesday afternoon. The funds will be distributed across the families and will be put towards basic needs including rent, groceries and utilities, the campaign said.

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