Biden vows to rebuild collapsed Baltimore bridge 'quickly'

  • By Bernd Debussmann Jr
  • BBC News, Baltimore

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WATCH: 'I'm here to grieve with you,' Biden tells Baltimore residents

US President Joe Biden has pledged to “move heaven and earth” to recover from a deadly bridge collapse blocking Baltimore's harbor.

“The government will help you to rebuild and maintain all the business and trade here now,” he said.

A large ship ran aground in a busy East Coast port used by companies such as Amazon, killing six workers.

So far, $60m (£47.4m) has been allocated to the clean-up effort.

The final cost of clearing the waterway and rebuilding the bridge could be huge, with some lawmakers estimating it could run into the hundreds of millions of dollars. For one, Maryland Democrat David Drone told the BBC's US partner CBS that he believed the cost would be as high as $1 billion.

On Friday, Mr Biden reiterated an earlier commitment to help fund Baltimore's recovery process and rebuilding efforts.

“I fully intend… the central government [will] Cover the cost of building this entire bridge. All,” he said, calling on Congress to approve the funding “as soon as possible.”

During his visit, Mr Biden, who has family ties to the city, took an aerial tour of the collapsed area with Maryland Governor Wes Moore and other senior officials involved in the recovery effort before meeting emergency workers.

In the Baltimore suburb of Dundalk – where the freighter, Daly and the dilapidated bridge are clearly visible – Mr Biden said he would “move heaven and earth” to rebuild the bridge “as quickly as humanly possible”.

He added that the rebuilding effort would be driven by “union labor and American steel.”

The port is a major economic hub with more than 15,000 jobs attached.

“People, we all have to step up,” he added, “Amazon, Home Depot … and other companies that rely on this port and are committed to keeping workers on the payroll.”

In his remarks, Mr Biden sent a message to the families of the “hard-working, strong, selfless” men who died in the crash, whom he was scheduled to meet during his trip. All six are immigrants from Mexico and Central America.

“Never forget the contribution these men made to this city,” he said. “We're going to continue to work hard to recover each and every one of them.”

In an April 5 letter to senior members of House and Senate committees focused on infrastructure, transportation, public works and the environment, Office of Management and Budget Director Shalonda Young wrote, “The administration will pursue all avenues to recover past and current spending.” and future work”.

In the wake of the accident, the “Unified Command” responsible for the response opened two small temporary shipping lanes in the area to allow limited maritime traffic to pass through.

By the end of April, officials hope to open a limited-access channel 280 feet (80 m) wide and 35 feet (10 m) deep that will allow one-way traffic for barge containers and some ships carrying cars and equipment.

The full, permanent channel is expected to be clear and ready for use by the end of May, the Combined Command said in a statement earlier this week.

However, that timeline could change due to weather and unforeseen complications with the recovery effort.

“It will take time,” Mr Biden said.

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