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Controlled demolition at Baltimore bridge collapse site postponed due to weather

A vessel, center right, moves past the stranded container ship Dali, through a newly opened deep-water channel in Baltimore after being stuck in the harbor since the Francis Scott Key Bridge collapsed four weeks ago, Thursday, April 25, 2024. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)(AP/Matt Rourke)

BALTIMORE (AP) 鈥 The controlled demolition of the largest remaining steel span of the collapsed Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore has been postponed because of weather conditions, officials said Sunday afternoon.

Crews have been preparing for weeks to use explosives to break down the span, which is an estimated 500 feet (152 meters) long and weighs up to 600 tons (544 metric tons).

It landed on the ship鈥檚 bow after lost power and one of the bridge鈥檚 support columns shortly after leaving Baltimore. Since then, the ship has been stuck amidst the wreckage and Baltimore鈥檚 busy port has been closed to most maritime traffic.

Officials said the demolition had been tentatively moved to Monday evening. They said lightning in the area and rising tides Sunday prompted them to reschedule.

Six members of a roadwork crew plunged to their deaths in the March 26 collapse. The was recovered from the underwater wreckage last week. All the victims were who came to the U.S. for job opportunities. They were filling potholes on an overnight shift when the bridge was destroyed.

The controlled demolition will allow the Dali to be refloated and guided back into the Port of Baltimore. Once the ship is removed, maritime traffic can begin returning to normal, which will provide relief for thousands of longshoremen, truckers and small business owners who have seen their jobs impacted by the closure.

The Dali鈥檚 21-member crew will stay onboard the ship while the explosives are detonated.

William Marks, a spokesperson for the crew, said they would shelter 鈥渋n a designated safe place鈥 during the demolition. 鈥淎ll precautions are being taken to ensure everyone鈥檚 safety,鈥 he said in an email.

Officials said the demolition is the safest and most efficient way to remove steel under a high level of pressure and tension.

鈥淚t鈥檚 unsafe for the workers to be on or in the immediate vicinity of the bridge truss for those final cuts,鈥 officials said in a news release Sunday.

In a videographic released last week, authorities said engineers are using precision cuts to control how the trusses break down. They said the method allows for 鈥渟urgical precision鈥 and the steel structure will be 鈥渢hrust away from the Dali鈥 when the explosives send it tumbling into the water.

Once it鈥檚 demolished, hydraulic grabbers will lift the resulting sections of steel onto barges.

鈥淚t鈥檚 important to note that this controlled demolition is not like what you would see in a movie,鈥 the video says, noting that from a distance it will sound like fireworks or loud thunder and give off puffs of smoke.

So far, about 6,000 tons (5,443 metric tons) of steel and concrete have been removed from the collapse site. Officials estimate the total amount of wreckage at 50,000 tons (45,359 metric tons), about the equivalent of 3,800 loaded dump trucks.

Officials previously said they hoped to by May 10 and reopen the port鈥檚 50-foot (15.2-meter) main channel by the end of May.

The Dali is currently scheduled to be refloated during high tide on Tuesday, officials said Sunday. They said three or four tugboats will be used to guide the ship to a nearby terminal in the Port of Baltimore. It will likely remain there for a few weeks and undergo temporary repairs before being moved to a shipyard for more substantial repairs.

The Dali crew members haven鈥檛 been allowed to leave the vessel since the disaster. Officials said they have been busy maintaining the ship and assisting investigators. Of the crew members, 20 are from India and one is Sri Lankan.

The National Transportation Safety Board and the FBI are into the bridge collapse.

Danish shipping giant Maersk chartered the Dali for a planned trip from Baltimore to Sri Lanka, but the ship didn鈥檛 get far. Its crew sent a mayday call saying they had lost power and had no control of the steering system. Minutes later, the ship rammed into the bridge.

Officials have said the safety board investigation will focus on the ship鈥檚 electrical system.

Copyright © 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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