‘People of Baltimore, we’re with you’, says Biden as six people still missing

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President Biden has promised that he will visit Baltimore “as soon as possible” where six people are still unaccounted for after a major bridge collapsed when a cargo ship hit it.

“People of Baltimore, we’re with you,” he said, as he added the search and rescue operation was a “top priority”.

The US president said the federal government will cover the “full cost” of rebuilding the bridge. He said it may emerge a private company was responsible for the disaster, but his government is “not going to wait” to begin the rebuilding process.

He told reporters at the White House: “It’s my intention that the federal government will pay for the entire cost of reconstructing that bridge and I expect Congress to support my effort.”

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Mr Biden continued: “Everything so far indicates that this was a terrible accident. At this time have we no other indication, no other reason to believe there’s any intentional act here.

Personnel on board the ship were able to alert the Maryland Department of Transportation that they had lost control of their vessel.”

The president added that this meant local authorities were able to close the bridge before it was struck which “undoubtedly saved lives”.

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He continued: “Our prayers are with everyone involved in this terrible accident and all the families (affected), especially those waiting for news of their loved one right now. I know every minute in that circumstance feels like a lifetime.”

The US president said the search and rescue operation remains the “top priority” but authorities will be working to get the port open again as soon as possible.

The Port of Baltimore, which is accessed or departed by going underneath the bridge, is one of the US’ largest shipping hubs.

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Everything we know about the Baltimore bridge collapse.

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‘They thought it was an earthquake’

Mr Biden said 15,000 jobs depend on the port. “We’re going to do everything we can to protect those jobs,” he added.

He continued: “I’ve directed my team to move heaven and earth to reopen the port and rebuild the bridge as soon as humanly possible.”

The 1.6-mile long Francis Scott Key Bridge collapsed into the Patapsco River after it was hit by a 289m-long cargo ship at 1.30am local time (5.30am UK time) on Tuesday.

Six people remain unaccounted for after dramatic footage showed vehicles falling from the structure as the road surface and steel beams crashed into the water.

Baltimore bridge latest: Follow live updates

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Timeline of Baltimore bridge collapse

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Aerial view of Baltimore bridge crash

In an update on Tuesday afternoon, Wes Moore, governor of Baltimore, and Paul Wiedefeld, secretary of the Maryland Transport Authority, said those still missing are believed to be construction workers who were on the bridge fixing potholes.

Two people were rescued from the water with one of them described as being in a “very serious condition” in hospital. The other was not injured.

Baltimore fire department’s communications chief Kevin Cartwright has said there were multiple vehicles on the bridge when it was struck by the ship, one of which was the size of a tractor trailer.

Rescue ongoing as cars and people fall into water after ship strike causes bridge to collapse

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CCTV and marine tracking data shows the ship, known as the Dali, lost power, adjusted its course and started smoking about 60 seconds before it hit the bridge.

According to the timings on the CCTV, the vessel hit the structure at 1.28:44am – with the bridge collapsing four seconds later.

All 22 crew members on board the ship, including the two pilots, have been accounted for and there were no reports of injuries.

Tune into a special edition of The World with Yalda Hakim on Sky News tonight at 9pm.

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