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Baltimore's Francis Scott Key Bridge Collapses; U.S. Supreme Court To Hear Arguments On Abortion. Aired 9-10a ET

Aired March 26, 2024 - 09:00   ET



ELENI GIOKOS, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: This is the scene in Baltimore, Maryland, where rescue workers are searching for survivors after a major

bridge in the city's pot was hit by a container ship. It is 9:00 a.m. in Baltimore, it is 5:00 p.m. here in Abu Dhabi, I'm Eleni Giokos, this is

CONNECT THE WORLD, also happening in one hour from now.

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in the most significant abortion case since the reversal of Roe versus Wade, and we'll bring you a report

from outside the court. Well, we start with our breaking news. What is being called a dynamic search and rescue operation in Baltimore after a

bridge was hit by a container ship and collapsed, this happened just before 1:30 a.m. local time.

So, that's around 7.5 hours ago. The collapse captured on video, it's a startling scene. The Francis Scott Key Bridge crumbling into the river. My

emergency officials say two people were rescued, one with serious injuries, the other apparently on Hertz and refusing treatment.

It is believed at least seven others were either in vehicles crossing the bridge or working on the bridge when it collapsed?


PAUL WIEDEFELD, TRANSPORTATION SECRETARY, MARYLAND: At this time, this is an active search and rescue mission. We know there were -- we know there

were individuals on the bridge at the time of the collapse working on the bridge, contracted for us.


GIOKOS: Right now, it is just after 9:00 a.m. in Baltimore. The Baltimore Fire chief says Sonar detected vehicles in the river, but at this time of

the year, the water temperatures are frigid, they are low and the hopes of finding survivors appear to be diminishing.

Now, Maryland's governor has declared a state of emergency. Now, the ship that was hit and it hit -- that hit the bridge is a Singaporean-flagged

vessel. Law enforcement officials say there was no indication of terrorism, but there are a lot of questions about how this could happen. CNN's Gabe

Cohen has more from Baltimore for us.


GABE COHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): At this point, they are still carrying this out as an urgent rescue operation, even though as the hours

pass, it is very difficult to imagine somebody could survive in water like this, a temperature around 48 degrees for such an extended period of time.

But if you look behind me and we're going to zoom in now, you did -- you can actually see this search and rescue operation unfolding. There are

several -- I've counted close to a dozen of boats in the water, rescuers, divers that are trying to save anyone that they can find in the water.

And as we push closer, I mean, that is the massive container ship, the Dalai(ph) that crashed into the Key Bridge and sent those massive chunks of

steel sections of the bridge down into the water. You can see one is laying across the deck of that ship right now mangled.

We've also seen on the top of the ship -- the bridge, where the operating controls presumably would be -- it looks like there are people inside who

have been walking around. We know that there is a crew on board. We have gotten word from the operating company at this point that there were no

injuries from anyone on the ship.

But as you mentioned, major concern for the people who were on the bridge, people who were inside cars or even construction crews that may have been

working at the time, as you mentioned. Officials have said they are searching for at least seven people, and they have found through Sonar,

they can detect that there are vehicles in the water.

And so, look, I've been out here for hours now. It is -- there are frigid conditions along the river, winds are whipping, it is very cold and there

are quite substantial waves, and so conditions are not ideal for rescuers who are searching a really large portion of this river.


GIOKOS: Baltimore City Fire Department Chief James Wallace joins us now. James, thank you very much for joining us, difficult day, difficult time.

And of course, emergency services fighting against time and the cold weather to try and rescue from what we understand, seven people that might

be trapped underwater. Could you give me a sense of how those rescue operations are going?


JAMES WALLACE, CHIEF, FIRE DEPARTMENT, BALTIMORE CITY: Yes, ma'am, and good morning. We currently have a kind of a two-pronged operation, if you will.

One, that's being conducted on the water surface, we have -- we have eight dive teams from the region that are currently on the scene, and that totals

approximately 50 divers.

We also have air assets from the coast guard, the Maryland State Police, and the Baltimore Police Department that are conducting air reconnaissance

over the incident scene itself.

GIOKOS: You have a large surface area and to search. We also know the Sonar has been able to detect these people as we've said, it's a race against

time, and we're watching these images of this vessel still stuck beneath mangled metal what's left of the bridge. Is that impacting or obstructing

the rescue operations?

WALLACE: So, yes, the vessel, its presence as well as the collapse super structure of the bridge itself. It does present a challenge. It presents a

challenge as we navigate on the surface, but more likely, a greater challenge is subsurface and underwater as we put divers in to begin to


This water, as you stated earlier, it's -- the water is frigid here right now, we do have a relatively strong wind, and we also had this incident

occurred about two hours before high tide this morning. So, we have an evolving and changing tide.

GIOKOS: Yes --

WALLACE: All of those factors in addition to we believe this to be about a 60-foot dive, makes these -- makes this an extraordinarily difficult

challenge for our teams. So, you know, above all else, we're trying to be very safe and very cautious with our -- with our divers.

But we do remain in search and rescue mode. The sun's been up for a couple of hours here now, we're able to better assess the scene itself. But we do

have a number of challenges that we're going to have to overcome.

GIOKOS: So, in terms of the Sonar technology that was used, is that still being used to sort of check if there might be more people that could be

trapped underwater. Is it still the number seven that we're looking at, at this point?

WALLACE: We're still looking for at least seven. And I'll stress at least seven.


WALLACE: This is -- this is a large incident. It covers a large area, a very large span of bridge. So, that number seems to be dynamic from time to

time. But the consistent number has been seven. We were using a side scan Sonar capability and we've also during the night time hours, we were using

infrared capabilities as well from the air and from on the water as well.

So, we've used multiple means and technologies to try to locate individuals other than the two that we know about right now, one of which was

uninjured, one that was very seriously injured. We have yet to locate anyone else.

GIOKOS: This incident occurring at around 1:30 a.m., I guess one could say that the positive in this, it wasn't during rush hour, peak hour. We know

this is an important bridge. It does have a lot of traffic. But do we know how many cars were on -- or vehicles were on this bridge at that time? Is

it -- do we have any footage -- I mean, or you -- you know, what more do we know about in terms of how busy it was?

WALLACE: It appears at this point, and this is very preliminary. This information is subject to change. But it appears at this point, the workers

that we're looking for are part of a construction crew. There may have been some concrete decking work being done on the bridge at the time of the


We have found so far with our Sonar technology, we've been able to find three vehicles, three passenger vehicles that are underwater. We believe

we've located a cement truck and they've located one additional vehicle -- I don't know what type of vehicle that is, but we do have at least

preliminary information that a lot of what we may be looking for could possibly be construction workers that were -- that were on the bridge at

the time of the collision.


GIOKOS: In terms of, you know, what we're looking at in the next few hours, as you say, you have about 50 divers, you've got air assets, you've got

entire teams on the ground. You've reiterated -- this is of course, a dynamic situation. What are you expecting in the next few hours? I guess

the best possible scenarios is to try and rescue people. But realistically, what are your team's facing?

WALLACE: So, the -- again, we have -- we have the weather challenge, we have the pre-existing cold water temperature challenge. We have very likely

limited visibility because of the depth of the water itself. And then, we have the super structure of the bridge that is now actually underwater.

So, we are facing numerous challenges. We continue to be in rescue mode until we're able to completely search this entire area around the

structure, around the ship itself. We're going to continue in a very aggressive and active operation. There is so much steel structure right now

that's in the water.

You know, there's -- we're holding out hope that we're going to find somebody maybe around that structure and be able to rescue them. But you

know, at this point, we've not found anyone since that initial search this morning.

GIOKOS: James, who made the initial call to 9-1-1? From what we understand, that, you know, the people on the vessel themselves weren't injured, did

the call come from the vessel? Did it come from some onlooker? What do we know about that?

WALLACE: I don't know at this point. We've -- since I got down here, I got down here around 2:00 a.m., it's -- my focus has been on this rescue

operation, again it's extraordinarily difficult just where we are right now in this time of day at the cover of darkness to that, and we really have to

remain focused on the operation at hand because we had multiple boats, multiple teams out on the water in a very aggressive posture.

So, I've not been able to really reach back yet and find --

GIOKOS: Yes --

WALLACE: You know, any of the details that led up to this incident.

GIOKOS: No, priority of course as the search and rescue absolutely. James, one last question. You said you arrived around 2:00 a.m., what was your

reaction when you saw this travesty occurring? And importantly, what was the initial response to get search and rescue teams on the ground as

quickly as possible?

WALLACE: Well, my initial reaction -- I've worked in the city of Baltimore for 34 years. This is a structure that I've known, I've gone across

numerous times. So, to get here and see that it's no longer there, obviously is, you know, it's quite a shock, but the focus has to be on the

mission at hand.

We -- the Baltimore City Fire Department, we're a port city, so, we have a very robust response when incidents occur that involve the inner harbor or

even our inland bodies of water. We have a very robust response, but we're also a city that's very fortunate to have the partners that we have in

other fire departments and the police departments around us.

We all train together. We train for emergencies that will bring multiple teams together, so that we have a strong command component. But we're also

very coordinated. And that in and of itself has assisted us here a lot this morning and will continue to get it throughout the coming days. But it's

that training and coordination piece I think, that has led to such a robust and rapid response.

GIOKOS: James, thank you very much for taking the time today to speak with us and to give us an update. We wish you and your team all the very best in

your operation and parties at hand. Thank you, sir.

WALLACE: Yes, ma'am, thank you.

GIOKOS: Thank you. Well, the ship's owner says none of the crew on board was injured when the cargo ship collided with the bridge. Now, the ship

management company Synergy Group says "the exact cause of what happened is being investigated by qualified incident response team.

The U.S. Coast Guard, local officials as well as the ship's owners and managers will fully cooperate with federal and state agencies."


Now, the container ship in the collision was chartered by Maersk, that is according to the Danish shipping company which gave CNN this statement. And

we quote, "we are horrified by what has happened in Baltimore, and our thoughts are with all of those affected."

Well, I'd like to bring in Gabe Cohen who is near the Baltimore bridge and joins us now live. Gabe, as, you know, emergency services says, this is a

dynamic situation. There is a lot happening -- you're watching in real time the search and rescue operation, howbeit, a bit far away. Tell me what

you're seeing right now

COHEN: And look, we've been watching it since the very early hours of the morning. If you look behind me, and we're going to zoom in because you're

right, we are pretty far away, but as we push and you'll get a better sense of the search and rescue operation.

And as you heard in that last interview, it is still very much an urgent operation. They are trying and hoping there are still people to rescue, to

save, who are inside the water. But obviously, as the minutes tick by, things are growing more dire and potentially more catastrophic.

And as you see here, as we push in on this container ship, gives you a sense of the scale of this boat. This massive ship, and you can see pieces

of the Key Bridge, several chunks that have fallen into the water, one, laying across the deck of the ship.

And if you look at the top of the ship, which we have been watching over the past hour or so, you can see the bridge where the control operations

for the ship would most likely be. And we can see people moving around. There are -- there is a crew on board.

We have gotten word that none of them were injured in this incident, but those rescuers are still searching crews on the water. We've seen close to

a dozen of those rescue boats with dozens of divers that are in the water right now.

They have been searching for potentially seven or more people that they believe might be in the water, either construction workers who were on the

bridge or even drivers, passengers who were inside cars when it collapsed early this morning.

We also on the riverbank are seeing a lot of emergency vehicles also participating in this operation. Look, certainly officials as the morning

moves forward are preparing the public for potential tragedy, because at this point, hours into this, it's growing less and less likely that someone

could survive in water this cold for this long.

It has been hours now, and this water, 48 degrees, it's likely somebody could only survive, you know, one to three hours, and conditions I can tell

you along the water are brutal. It has been freezing cold this morning, really strong winds, these powerful waves.

And so, the search and rescue crews really have their hands full and there -- but you can hear they're trying to keep a very positive attitude and

really just hoping that they can still save lives out there as the morning moves on.

GIOKOS: Look, I know you were listening into the interview with Baltimore City Fire Department Chief James Wallace, and he was reiterating that point

of very cold water, change of tides that they are going up against a lot of issues.

And the hope is, as you say that they will be able to rescue people as time does pass. But in reality here, Gabe, as we know, time is of the essence,

we are seeing major intervention as much as, you know, authorities can possibly do on the ground.

Is there a concern in terms of what we'll be looking at down the line in the next few hours as you said, and you were very sober about this, that

three hours is sort of the maximum time in terms of surviving in this cold temperatures?

COHEN: Well, look, that is the reality, and that's what the science says. But of course, these rescue --rescuers and the officials calling the shots

here are not going to operate based on that. They are going to hold out hope as you heard from the fire chief that there is somebody in there that

they just haven't spotted yet, who they -- and they might be able to save at least one life in this water.

But if we pull out our shot a little bit, just to give you a sense of how big this section of the Patapsco River is, and how much of the bridge

collapse -- I mean, this is not some small section of the bridge that was lost. It is massive. It is -- you know, I'd be speculating a little bit,

but it appears to be maybe a quarter mile or a half-mile of bridge, that's just gone down into the water.


And so, there is quite a lot of ground to cover, and we see boats really covering these -- these first responder, boats covering both sides of the

bridge, a Coast Guard helicopter overhead just looking for any sign of life. But of course, yes, as you mentioned, the reality is, it is growing

less likely that somebody could survive in the water this long.

And I think officials want the public to be prepared for that. But they are holding on to hope, and they're going to continue this operation at least

for now they say, as a full-on search and rescue, that the plan is to save lives.

GIOKOS: Absolutely, and we know there are 50 divers right now. There are air assets, various other technology like Sonar being used in the hope that

we'll get good news in the next few hours. Gabe, thank you so much, great to have you with us. We're going to a very short break, we'll be back with

more right after this. Stay with us.


GIOKOS: We are following a dramatic and terrifying story in Baltimore, Maryland. The key Bridge, part of a major highway around the city collapsed

earlier today after being struck by a large cargo ship. Emergency officials say two people were rescued, one with serious injuries and the other

apparently unhurt and refusing treatment.

It is believed that at least seven people are still in the water and a search and rescue operation is underway to find them. Former U.S. Secretary

of Transportation, Ray LaHood joins us now for a bit more insights. Ray, thank you so much for joining us today.


GIOKOS: Good morning. Good morning. You know, you've seen the images, we've been watching this cargo ship ramming into that structure on the bridge.

And it basically look like a domino effect in seeing the collapse of the bridge. We know that there's an investigation underway to find out what

happened because, you know, we've got so many unanswered questions.

But from your perspective, seeing this play out, what are your questions right now? What are your initial thoughts?

LAHOOD: Well, first of all, we are praying and hoping for the best for the victims, those people that were on the bridge either in their car driving

across the bridge when it collapsed, or there were some workers from the Department of Transportation that were working on the bridge overnight

while there was very little traffic.

So, the rescue effort continues. That's where all of the emphasis is been placed. There will be an investigation, several agencies of the U.S.

government will be involved in that investigation to determine how this huge cargo ship could have crashed into one of the pylons and made the

bridge collapse the way that it did.


It's never really happened before in the history of our country, and that's a very busy channel for ships in and out of the Baltimore harbor. Those

cargo ships are on a regular basis traveling in and out of the Baltimore harbor. So, this is an extraordinary unusual history-making, an occurrence

in the Baltimore area, Baltimore-Washington area.

And obviously, everyone will want to get to the bottom of it. There has been extraordinary cooperation and coordination between all levels of

government, whether it's the city of Baltimore, the county of Baltimore, the U.S. government, Department of Transportation, Homeland Security, Coast

Guard, everybody is all hands-on-deck, to find the victims. Some in cars that are submerged under the water and also the investigation will come in,

so very quickly.

GIOKOS: Yes, as you say, priority at hand, search and rescue operations. We just spoke to the fire chief from Baltimore City, and he was saying there

were 50 divers, there's air support. He did also say that the vessel is in some way making it a lot more difficult.

But this -- I mean, and we're seeing the images of just -- you know, how many teams are in the water right now surging this large surface area with

this collapsed bridge. It's pretty unbelievable to watch.

LAHOOD: Well, and the point is, these people, these divers have been in the water since 1:30 in the morning, it's now almost 10:00 a.m. here in the

United States, and these divers have been searching for a long time very difficult to try and find the victims.

The water is a -- temperature that really will be inhibiting in terms of people being able to, you know, really survive. And so, these efforts will

continue until everyone is found. And it's also a difficult body of water to be looking for people also.

GIOKOS: We are waiting for a press conference for more details. Ray, I would like you to stay close if possible as we get more information coming

through. But we do appreciate you joining us this morning, on this very important story, thank you, sir.

Well, a short time ago, the U.S. Coast Guard re-affirmed their primary mission in the wake of the bridge collapse. I want you to take a listen to



ERIN PALMER, U.S. COAST GUARD: The Coast Guard's primary mission right now is search and rescue, looking for any survivors in the water. On scene we

currently have three small boats, we also have Coast Guard cutter Mako, an 87-foot patrol boat.

We have a helicopter from air station Atlantic City, and we're working with numerous federal state and local partners on scene on these search and

rescue efforts.


GIOKOS: I want to bring in CNN meteorologist Derek Van Dam who perhaps can give us some insights into what these teams in the water are dealing with

right now and search and rescue is underway. Derek, we know the water is cold, but what does this mean for our rescue operations?

DEREK VAN DAM, CNN WEATHER ANCHOR: Well, it's downright frigid and it's downright dangerous, Eleni. Water temperatures right now across the

Patapsco River, just off the Chesapeake Bay here on the eastern seaboard of the United States are roughly about 9 degrees Celsius or 48 degrees


And when we talk about what that means, when you have unintended of submersion in water temperatures like that, you have a rough estimate of

time of survival, one to three hours is some of the official estimates that we've been able to find from authorities like the National Weather Service,

University of Minnesota, for instance.

And you understand what happens to the body when you are exposed to water temperatures of that cold, that cold been 9 degrees Celsius, 48 degrees

Fahrenheit. Your blood pressure rises, you instantly start to become hypothermic, your changing and breathing patterns, you can actually have a

heart attack or you can lose loss of your limbs and of course, that is what not only are the search and rescue operations contending with, but also the

potential here for victims as well.


So, what about the surface of the water and above? Because this is also at play in this very fluid situation, Eleni, and we currently have coastal

flood warnings in across the Chesapeake Bay and into the Patapsco River near Baltimore. This is the Delmarva Peninsula, the east coast of the U.S.

And I bring this up because we just went through high tide, which was at 8:20 Eastern Standard Time this morning, and now, we are approaching low

tide. So, that means there is a reversal in the direction of the water within the Chesapeake Bay and particularly within the Patapsco River, where

the Key Bridge collapsed.

So, we are navigating, the search and rescue boats navigating currents, tides, changing water conditions. Not to mention the wind that will

ultimately pick up in advance of an approaching cold front, which you can see on the radar just to the west. So, as this gets closer and closer to

the general Baltimore area, we anticipate the winds to pick up.

They were calm this morning, already out of the east at 9 miles per hour. Air temperature right now, 43 degrees. Remember the water temperature is at

48 degrees Fahrenheit, and cold water actually drains body heat about four times as fast as cold air. So, conditions on the surface, dangerous

conditions below the surface of the water, even more dangerous. Eleni.

GIOKOS: All right, Derek Van Dam, thank you so much for that updates. Look, we've got a lot more coming up on this breaking news, and still ahead, we

are expecting more information from a press conference on the ground in Baltimore. Any moment we'll bring that to you live. We're going to a short

break, I'll be right back.


GIOKOS: Welcome back to CONNECT THE WORLD, I'm Eleni Giokos in Abu Dhabi. Back to those dramatic scenes coming out of the -- Baltimore in the early

hours of this morning, following the collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge. We are waiting for a press conference that should be underway in

just a moment.


To give us more insight into the search and rescue operation which is currently underway, and to get more insight into what happened and what

comes next in -- of course in an investigation that is also being run in tandem, but priority remains search and rescue. Multiple vehicles falling

into the water after a Singaporean-flagged container ship veered off course and struck a pillar of the bridge.

While search and rescue efforts are continuing, new details also emerging, including that the Dalai(ph) ship was involved in an incident at the port

of Antwerp in Belgium in 2016 according to port authorities. I want to bring in CNN's Gabe Cohen joining us live from Baltimore.

Gabe, we are waiting for a press conference. They have said that it's a dynamic situation. We are waiting for more information, and you're watching

on this operation that's got air support, you've got 50 divers in the water, and has been continuing since this incident occurred at 1:30 a.m.

COHEN: Yes, Eleni, it's been surreal watching this rescue operation play out behind me. We're going to zoom in on it now because we are a good

distance, look, first responders had the whole area locked down around both sides of the bridge. But as we push in, you can clearly see that massive

container ship with pieces of the Key Bridge laying on top of the deck.

Others, just down in the river and around the -- all of this, right now were all of these rescue boats, we have seen as many as a dozen, maybe more

of them, dozens of divers that are in the water right now covering frankly, a really big portion of this river because of how much of this bridge was

lost when that ship hit the column of the bridge.

They have pulled two people from the river already. They did a couple of hours ago, one of them was basically unhurt, declined treatment, another

taken to the hospital with serious injuries. And they are holding on hope, using technology like Sonar, which has detected vehicles in the water.

They also fear that there were construction workers on the bridge at the time when it collapsed. And as the hours tick away, the situation is

growing more dire. It is hard to believe that someone could survive in water this cold for this long, but first responders have said, look, we are

hopeful that somebody is just hidden somewhere around one of these pieces, one of these sections of the bridge that's in the water, and we have the

ability to find them and save their lives.

So, obviously, from the air on the water, this operation is continuing in full force, and on the riverbank, we're also seeing emergency vehicles that

are participating in this operation. We have seen a lot of crews as we came in very early this morning around 3:34 in the morning, we saw first

responders really flying around, trying to reach the water as this operation was unfolding.

And we are hoping to get more information, hopefully, some good information. But officials also being realistic that things are growing

more urgent every second here.

GIOKOS: Absolutely, I mean, you know, in terms of the cold water temperature, you've got the change in currents, you've got the change in

wind. I mean, all of that, those environmental issues --

COHEN: Right --

GIOKOS: Sort of fighting against what the rescue workers are facing right now. Look, we know that we will be hearing a little bit more about this

down the line. But we know that there were workers on the bridge at the time of this incident. We also know that luckily, it wasn't during peak

hour, right?

This happened in the early hours of the morning. We still don't know how many vehicles were on this bridge, but we do know it is generally a busy


COHEN: Yes, it absolutely is. This is 695 Interstate, 695 it is. A critical -- it's a critical bridge along a critical highway for those who travel the

so-called Acela Corridor between New York and Washington D.C. I've taken this bridge many times between those cities or coming here to Baltimore.

And as you mentioned, look, this is a really urgent and potentially tragic situation. But seeing how much of the bridge is gone, this massive section

of it, if it had been peak rush hour, we are talking about at least dozens of cars at the very least. That would have been most likely in the river

when the collapse unfolded.

So, yes, that potentially is the silver-lining that would happen in the early hours of the morning when there aren't as many cars on the road, but

as we note, this is still a really urgent situation because first responders have figured out -- these rescuers have figured out using Sonar

that there are vehicles in the water.


And so, they believe there are at least seven people, that's the number we have gotten that they are searching for at this hour. What's unclear and

we're hoping to get more information on in the next few minutes is what progress they've made since the last update in locating any of those


GIOKOS: Yes, all right, Gabe Cohen standing by for us in Baltimore, giving us updates on the search and rescue after a vessel struck the bridge there,

and we can see these images and dramatic images coming through this morning. Of course, first responders on the ground doing what they can as

they race against time.

We've got more news this hour. Protests outside the U.S. Supreme Court as the justices prepare to hear the most important reproductive rights case

since they decided to overturn Roe versus Wade. Look at what's at stake and reaction in Washington in a live report just ahead.

We're also waiting for that press conference out of Baltimore, we'll be right back after the short break, stay with us.


GIOKOS: Welcome back. Now, reproductive rights in the United States are once again front and center. Minutes from now, the U.S. Supreme Court will

hear arguments in the most significant abortion case since the reversal of Roe versus Wade.

The justices will decide whether a lower court's ruling limiting access to the abortion drug Mifepristone should go into effect. It comes after a

group of anti-abortion doctors and organizations sued the FDA, claiming it violated the law and how it has regulated the drug.

CNN's chief legal affairs correspondent Paula Reid is outside the courthouse in Washington. Paula, very important to note, the court is not

deciding whether to pull the abortion pill from the market. So, tell us what the arguments are. Is this about the safety of the pill or is this

about getting access to abortion?

PAULA REID, CNN CHIEF LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, it depends who you ask, because this case started shortly after the Supreme Court overturned

Roe v. Wade in 2022, a group of anti-abortion doctors and advocates sued the FDA over its approval of Mifepristone.

Now, the drug was approved back in 2000, but as the case has gone on, instead, they have focused on additional FDA approvals, both in 2016 and

2021, that expanded access to this drug. So, you can now have a telemedicine appointment and have the drug mailed to you.

That's really what's at stake here, is this expanded access, retail availability of Mifepristone, one of the drugs used in this process called

medication abortion. A lot of people don't realize that medication abortion accounts for the majority of abortions in the U.S.

Now, the FDA emphasizes that they followed the proper procedure here, they emphasized that this is one of the most studied drugs and is a demonstrated

record of safety. So, today in just a short time here, the justices will hear arguments from both sides, but a lot at stake, not only for people

seeking access to this drug, but also for the FDA and its approval for other medications.


GIOKOS: There are protests as well occurring at the same time, because just so much is at stake essentially, depending on what the Supreme Court rules

today. Give us a sense of sort of the mood on the ground and how abortion in many ways has become politicized.

REID: Yes, we can hear protesters. We're a little ways in front of the court. We can certainly clearly hear the protesters much louder than it's

been on other days. But this is and continues to be a big issue in the U.S. for decades. Abortion was a rallying issue for a lot of Republican voters.

But after Roe was overturned, and it's actually helped to galvanize Democratic voters. And we expect that this decision will come down in June,

late June, the heart of the presidential campaign season. So, depending on which way this goes, this case, the outcome, what they decide could

potentially have a significant impact on the election.

GIOKOS: All right, Paula Reid, great to have you with us. Thank you so much for that update. We're going to go to a very short break and we'll be back

with more of our breaking news coverage, that massive bridge collapse in Baltimore. We're also waiting for a press conference to get more details on

how the search and rescue operation is going on right now.

We can see that collapsed bridge there, and of course, reporters waiting for more information from local authorities. All right, we'll be right

back. Stay with CNN.


GIOKOS: Welcome back, and we're keeping an eye on that large scale search and rescue operations still underway in Baltimore, Maryland, eight hours

after the collapse of a major bridge, the Francis Scott Key Bridge crumbled into the water after it was hit by a huge cargo ship.

At least, seven people who were believed to be on the bridge at the time are missing. Two others were rescued, one with serious injuries, no one was

on board -- no one onboard the cargo ship was hurt. Now, a collapse of this magnitude can echo differently for the people around it.

A former Baltimore Fire official describes the moment of the collapse as feeling like an earthquake. Listen to this.


DONALD HEINBUCH, FORMER ASSISTANT CHIEF, BALTIMORE CITY FIRE DEPARTMENT: I live in a community called Sunny Beach, which is the first community going

south from the bridge. And we were awakened with what appeared to be an earthquake, and a long rolling sound of thunder.



HEINBUCH: So, we woke up and literally we can look right out our bedroom window and see the Key Bridge. But I couldn't see anything because of the

darkness. And a little bit later, got up again to check, and I saw some emergency lights in the area, and I decided to drive up because I'm the old

dawg chasing the fire truck.

And I came up here, and what was in progress was a multi-jurisdictional response to a disaster basically.


GIOKOS: All right, incident like this certainly leaves more questions and answers in its wake. What was the cause of the incident? How long will

reconstruction take? All very important questions, but not timely, said Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott at a news conference on the scene earlier

today where he stressed what people should be discussing right now.


MAYOR BRANDON SCOTT, BALTIMORE, MARYLAND: The discussion right now should be about the people, the souls, the lives that we're trying to save. There

will be a time to discuss about a bridge, and how we get a bridge back up. But right now, there are people in the water that we have to get out.

And that's the only thing we should be talking about. This is a tragedy as you can never imagine, right? And I was awake when Chief Wallace called me,

but never would you think that you would see, physically see the Key Bridge tumbled down like that. It looked like something out of an action movie.

And you just think about motion in Portland, which is where we all should be thinking about right now. Nothing but those families and people that are

impacted, and those people who are risking their lives right now, from not just Baltimore City and Baltimore County, but all over this state to try to

save lives.

That should be our focus. The preservation of life, because no one wants to see that happen, let alone someone in their family, someone that they know

be injured in an incident like this.


GIOKOS: Well, that was Brandon Scott, Baltimore mayor talking about the priority right now. The search and rescue that is currently underway, we

know there are 50 divers in the water. Large surface area that they have to check, Sonar has seen at least seven -- they're saying at least seven

people that could be trapped underwater.

We also, of course, know that the NTSB is launching a go-team, a go-team is what they're calling it, to investigate the collapse of this bridge after

that vessel crashed into it at 1:30 a.m. local time in Baltimore. All right now, in the meantime, White House officials say President Biden has been

briefed on the bridge collapse and officials there are closely monitoring the situation.

Now, as we've mentioned, local and state officials say there is no indication this was a terrorist attack. We've got Kevin Liptak joining us

right now. Kevin, we know that there were FBI, local FBI teams on the ground as this event occurred. They've ruled out terrorist attack, but we

know the White House is monitoring this very closely. Tell us more.

KEVIN LIPTAK, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Yes, and certainly, that was sort of the first thing that we heard from the White House this morning, was

that they did not see any indications that this was a nefarious act. And we also heard from the American Homeland Security Secretary who said that

there was no sign that this was intentional, so, they really want to get that out there right away as they begin to determine what happened and how

it happened.

And President Biden, as you mentioned, was briefed on this and will be continually updated on it throughout the course of the day. We have also

heard from the Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, who has been in touch with top officials in the state of Maryland and also the mayor of


And I wouldn't be surprised if we also saw the Transportation Secretary on the ground there in Baltimore before long. I know President Biden himself

is scheduled to depart the White House midday for an event in the -- North Carolina. He'll be talking about healthcare, he'll be joined there by the

Vice President Kamala Harris.

And he does plan to keep his schedule today, he isn't planning to cancel any of it, but it does give you an indication of this balance that an

incumbent president running for re-election has to strike while they are also monitoring --

GIOKOS: Yes --

LIPTAK: You know, a serious tragedy like this, as they --

GIOKOS: All right --

LIPTAK: All go about this --

GIOKOS: Kevin, we are -- we're going to take live now the press conference of Brandon Scott, the mayor of Baltimore. Let's listen in.

GOV. WES MOORE (D-MD): The victims of this collapse literally, as we speak. People who as we speak are out there are divers, are air assets. People who

right now are working to save lives and are doing it because the state asked. And we will update the public as the work continues. To our partners

inside and outside of government, I know this has been a long night, we started coordinating immediately after the Key Bridge collapsed.


We've been standing together every step of the way from our county leadership, to our city leadership, to our state leadership, to our federal

leadership. And I'm grateful to call each and every one of you, not just colleagues, but I'm grateful to call you friends, and to the people of

Baltimore and each and every one of the 6.3 million Marylanders who call our state home.

I recognize that many of us are hurting right now. I recognize that many of us are scared right now, and so, I want to be very clear about where

everything stands. We are still investigating what happened, but we are quickly gathering details.

The preliminary investigation points to an accident. We haven't seen any credible evidence of a terrorist attack. Our administration is working

closely with leaders from all levels of government and society to respond to this crisis, and not by just by addressing the immediate aftermath, but

also by building a state that is more resilient, and a state that's more safe.

That is our pledge, and that's our commitment, and we're going to keep that commitment. And lastly, to the victims of this tragedy and their loved

ones, all of our hearts are broken. We feel your loss, we're thinking of you, and we will always be -- think of you.

We pray for the construction workers who are on the Key Bridge, and we pray for everyone who has been touched by this tragedy and their families, and

all of their loved ones. But Maryland, we will get through this, because that is the Maryland spirit, and that's what Maryland is made of. We are

Maryland tough and we are Baltimore strong. So, in the face of heartbreak, we come together, we embrace one another and we come back stronger.

That's what we've always done, that's what we will continue to do and that's what we're going to get done together, and we're going to pray for

Baltimore. And I'd like to turn this over to Senator Van Hollen, who's done a remarkable job, our fellow delegation in providing support. So, thank

you, senator.

SEN. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D-MD): Thank you, governor. As the governor said, we come together. We come together in Baltimore, we come together in Maryland.

First of all, our hearts go out to all those who were on the bridge and their loved ones, we pray for them. Our gratitude goes out to the first

responders who as we speak, are out there continuing to conduct search and rescue operations.

I want to thank the governor, local -- the mayor, county executives, all the people gathered here as part of team Baltimore and team Maryland. And

the federal government is with them as a partner. The Coast Guard as we speak is also part of this mission.

Coast Guard Cutters, Coast Guard aviation assets. I spoke twice today with Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg. Pete Buttigieg has pledged that

they will do everything they can to very quickly release emergency response funds for this important project.

The National Highway Transportation Administration administrator is on his way to Baltimore, if he's not here already. They will be releasing those

early funds once all the parties are fully engaged. Second, the National Transportation Safety Board, I talked to the chair this morning, she and

her team will be conducting an investigation of what happened.

And finally, the Army Corps of Engineers, Naval assets of four looking below the surface, and all of this is going to be part of the effort. The

governor is leading team Maryland, the mayor and the county executive, of course, team Baltimore. But I'm just here to say, together with Ben Cardin,

Senator Cardin and Congressman Mfume and others, the federal government is your partner in this effort.

Thank you, and again, to the people of our state and the people of this great city, we're with you, we love you. We will get through this

together. Thank you, governor.

WIEDEFELD: Good morning again. Paul Wiedefeld; Secretary of Transportation -- just a few updates since they're meeting this morning. The crew that was

out there working was basically repairing potholes, just so you understand, that had nothing to do with a structural issue at all in the facility.

At this time, one person has been rescued.