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Maryland Gov. Wes Moore on efforts to clean and reconstruct the Key Bridge


Cleanup efforts are underway in Baltimore, where the Francis Scott Key Bridge collapsed into the Patapsco River last week. Two construction workers died and four more are presumed dead after an enormous container ship ran into the bridge. The accident has shut down one of the country's busiest ports. Before things are up and running again, the bridge has to come out of the water. Maryland Governor Wes Moore is leading the efforts, and he's on the line with us now. Good morning.

WES MOORE: Good morning. Happy Easter.

RASCOE: Same to you. What's the first step in clearing that wreckage?

MOORE: Well, the first step is we've got to be able to get the heavy machinery inside the channel that can remove the wreckage. You know, this is a remarkably complex operation and really unprecedented because we now have a ship that is nearly the size of the Eiffel Tower that is stuck inside the water. And part of the reason that it's stuck inside the water is because it has a bridge sitting on it. So it has 3- to 4,000 tons of steel that is sitting on top of the bridge. So the first thing that - on top of the ship.

So the first thing we've got to do is begin the process of removing the bridge. And so we're first starting off opening up basically secondary pathways for it. We have a Chesapeake 1000, which is the largest operational crane on the East Coast, which is able to carry over 1,000 tons. And so as we're beginning to put the bridge up, remove the wreckage and that then will begin to be able to start the process of opening up these secondary channels, and we can continue our operations.

RASCOE: And there are still four bodies in the water. You said in a briefing yesterday that recovery divers couldn't be in the river because conditions weren't safe. What are some of those safety issues?

MOORE: Well, the safety issues are multiple. It's not just weather and wind. It's the fact that there is wreckage and debris. When the divers are going down, they can only see - it's pitch darkness. I mean, you can really only see between a foot to two in front of you, so it's really a feeling operation. So it's important that we bring a sense of closure to the families. It's important that we bring a sense of comfort to the families, and I'm committed to doing so, and we will use all resources and assets to do so.

I'm also fully committed to making sure that we are moving safely for our first responders. And so the way we decided to proceed in this operation is I'm not choosing between the safety of our first responders or the comfort of our families. We have to be able to provide both, and that's the way we're moving forward.

RASCOE: Do you have a timeline for when you think those bodies could be recovered?

MOORE: We know that we are focused on bringing that measure of comfort and closure to the families. There is no timeline because of, again, how complex this operation is. But the families know and everybody should know that we are committed to doing it.

RASCOE: I understand the staff of the ship, the Dali, are still on board. Have you been in touch with them?

MOORE: I've not personally been in touch with the staff that's on board. I know other folks from NTSB and others have been in touch with them. I know we've had personnel that have been able to to navigate the ship and give them support, but I personally have not been in touch with them.

RASCOE: The federal government is sending money for recovery efforts. Will that be enough to save local jobs?

MOORE: Well, we have to make sure this is going to be all hands on deck to be able to support our people. And when I say support our people, we're talking about the families. We're talking about the first responders. We're talking about the small businesses. We're talking about the fact that the Port of Baltimore alone is responsible for 8,000 direct jobs, over 10,000 jobs indirect connected to those. And so this is a major economic hub, a major economic engine, and not just for the city of Baltimore and for the state of Maryland. It's for the nation. This is the largest port in the country when it comes to cars, when it comes to heavy trucks, when it comes to agricultural equipment. And so this is not just having a distinct impact on Maryland's economy. It has a distinct impact on the nation's economy. And we have to make sure that our workers are protected in all this.

RASCOE: What do you say to some Republicans who have said that the federal government shouldn't pay for rebuilding the bridge?

MOORE: I would say to anybody, regardless of your political party, if you care about our nation's economy, we have got to get the Port of Baltimore flowing again because this is not just going to impact Maryland. Maryland doesn't need any favors. What we need right now is bipartisan support on getting our economy going again because this is impacting the farmer in Kentucky. This is impacting the auto dealer in Ohio. This is impacting the restaurant in Tennessee. This is impacting all of us, so we have to move swiftly on it.

RASCOE: Governor Wes Moore, thank you for speaking with us.

MOORE: God bless you. Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF HARRIS HELLER'S "SAN ANDREAS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Ayesha Rascoe is a White House correspondent for NPR. She is currently covering her third presidential administration. Rascoe's White House coverage has included a number of high profile foreign trips, including President Trump's 2019 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, Vietnam, and President Obama's final NATO summit in Warsaw, Poland in 2016. As a part of the White House team, she's also a regular on the NPR Politics Podcast.