Biden vows to rebuild Baltimore bridge in disaster zone visit

Baltimore, Maryland - President Joe Biden promised Friday to "move heaven and earth" to rebuild a collapsed Baltimore bridge as he visited the site of the disaster that killed six people.

President Joe Biden salutes as he visits the Maryland Transportation Authority Police Headquarters near the collapsed Francis Scott Key Bridge, in Dundalk, Maryland.
President Joe Biden salutes as he visits the Maryland Transportation Authority Police Headquarters near the collapsed Francis Scott Key Bridge, in Dundalk, Maryland.  © REUTERS

"I'm here to say, your nation has your back," Biden said in front of the mangled remains of the Francis Scott Key Bridge, which still lie across the huge cargo ship that destroyed it.

As Biden's administration tries to limit the economic fallout in an election year, he added that a new channel allowing access to one of America's biggest ports would open by the end of May.

The president flew over the wreckage of the bridge in his helicopter Marine One so he could get an aerial view of the colossal scale of the March 26 disaster in Baltimore harbor.

Biden then received a briefing from recovery workers who are
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trying to remove the thousands of tons of wreckage and open alternate channels to allow ships in and out of the port.

"From the air I saw the bridge that's been ripped apart – but on the ground I see a community that's been pulled together," he added.

The bridge was destroyed in seconds when the Singapore-flagged Dali cargo ship plowed into a support column, killing six road workers and shocking the country.

The Democrat urged Congress to back his plans to fully pay for the rebuilding of the bridge, despite the current paralysis on Capitol Hill as Republicans block much of his legislation.

"We're going to get this paid for," said Biden (81), wearing a baseball cap with a presidential seal and a jacket to fend off biting wind and cold.

"We're going to move heaven and earth to rebuild this bridge as rapidly as humanly possible."

Biden seeks to distinguish himself from Trump

Marine One transporting President Joe Biden flies over the site of the collapsed Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore, Maryland.
Marine One transporting President Joe Biden flies over the site of the collapsed Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore, Maryland.  © REUTERS

The White House has been keen to show that Biden has a grip on the bridge disaster, which threatens supply chains that could have an impact on the economy with the presidential election some seven months away.

The port of Baltimore is a key hub for the auto industry, handling almost 850,000 autos and light trucks last year – more than any other US port, according to Maryland state figures.

Biden also nodded to the industrial revival policies that he hopes will win him reelection against Republican Donald Trump in November, saying the rebuilding would happen with "American labor and American steel."

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In his bid to woo blue collar voters in the industrial heartland, Biden has repeatedly backed unions and sought to bring home manufacturing from China.

Biden meanwhile paid tribute to the dead workers, who were immigrants from Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras.

The road ahead for Baltimore

The task ahead for Baltimore remains immense.

First, salvage workers must remove the bridge by cutting it into smaller sections and lifting them out of the water and off the ship.

They also hope this will help rescuers recover all the victims' bodies.

Then they must remove the ship, a behemoth carrying some 4,700 containers.

Rebuilding the bridge, which carries a major road around the outskirts of the port city 40 miles north of Washington, is expected to take years and cost billions of dollars.

Cover photo: REUTERS

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