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Biden approves $60m emergency aid for Baltimore bridge collapse on ‘very long road’ to recovery

An emergency relief fund approved by the federal government will cover the “lion’s share” of costs to rebuild the Francis Scott Key bridge in Baltimore, officials have said, after an initial $60m was released to state authorities.

The “quick release” funds were applied for and approved on Thursday, and will also go towards current recovery efforts, though state Governor Wes Moore warned of a “very long road” to recovery.

On Wednesday, it was announced that two bodies had been recovered from the Patapsco River after the collapse of the bridge on Monday.

State officials announced they have suspended recovery operations, citing safety concerns for divers and an inability to reach vehicles still trapped within the submerged remains of the structure. The mission is now a salvage one, officials said.

The two men were identified as Alejandro Hernandez Fuentes, 35, and Dorlian Ronial Castillo Cabrera, 26.

The ‘quick release’ funds were applied for and approved on Thursday, and will also go towards current recovery efforts, which are ongoing

(Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Officials say they do not know when the bridge or port will be reopened, sparking fears about the disruption to trade likely to result from the tragedy.

In a press conference on Thursday, Maryland Governor Wes Moore announced the approval of the funds, telling reporters: “This morning, we submitted an initial $60 million request to the Biden Harris administration for initial mobilisation, operations and debris recovery efforts.

“I can report that as of this afternoon, the Biden Harris Administration has approved that request.”

He continued: “We are deeply grateful to President Biden, to Secretary Buttigieg, to our federal delegation, and all of our federal partners. I was thankful to receive a call just about an hour ago from Secretary Buttigieg and I’m grateful for the way that the administration has continued to lean in and support us.

“And I recently had a chance to thank them all personally for their continued work.” President Joe Biden has pledged the federal government would pay the full cost of rebuilding the bridge.

US Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg

(REUTERS)

Governor Moore added: “This work will not take hours. This work will not take days. This work will not just take weeks. We have a very long road ahead of us. We understand that. And we’re prepared.”

A statement from the US Department of Transportation said the $60m “quick release” funds would “serve as a down payment toward initial costs, and additional Emergency Relief program funding will be made available as work continues.”

Pete Buttigieg, US Secretary for Transportation, said: “No one will ever forget the shocking images of a container vessel striking the Francis Scott Key Bridge, causing its collapse and the tragic loss of six people.

“The federal emergency funds we’re releasing today will help Maryland begin urgent work, to be followed by further resources as recovery and rebuilding efforts progress”.

“President Biden has been clear: the federal government will do everything it takes to help rebuild the bridge and get the Port of Baltimore back open.”

At Thursday’s press conference Maryland’s Democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen said that the emergency funds would also cover the “lion’s share” of rebuilding the Francis Scott Key bridge.

The federal government has released $60m in ‘quick release’ funds to help with recovery and reconstruction efforts in Baltimore

(Getty Images)

It comes after insurance service company AM Best estimated that the exact total cost of the bridge collapse and the associated claims – though unclear for some time – would run “into the billions”.

“The insurance issues due to the collapse of the bridge will take a long time to determine and may involve several lines such as property, cargo, liability, trade credit and contingent business interruption,” a spokesperson said.

“The claim will likely involve several insurers, reinsurers, subrogation, and legal issues and will serve to add to the increasing challenges in reinsurance availability.”

At Thursday’s conference Mr Moore also promised that “the best minds in the world” were working on plans to clear the debris, move the cargo ship that rammed into the bridge from the channel, recover the bodies of the four remaining workers presumed dead and investigate what went wrong.

He told reporters: “I want to end by assuring the people of Maryland that this work is moving together at a full clip, and this work is moving forward together.

“The best minds in the world are here right now in Baltimore. They are working on this project in a methodical and a rigorous way and we are continuing to work with leaders in the community to provide a support to the families and all of those affected.

“I say we are going to get through this because we are Maryland tough and we are Baltimore strong.”


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