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Major Bridge In Baltimore Collapses After Cargo Ship Collision; Baltimore Official: Sonar Has Detected Five Vehicles Underwater; Biden Speaks After Baltimore Bridge In Baltimore Collapses; Cold Water Temperatures Limit Survivability After Baltimore Bridge Collapse. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired March 26, 2024 - 12:30   ET




MANU RAJU, CNN HOST: We're waiting for President Biden to address this devastating Baltimore bridge collapse that we have been following all morning. He's going to expect to talk about his briefings where he's learned about this incident. We will bring that to you live.

Then he heads off to North Carolina for an official White House event with Kamala Harris. I said a campaign event earlier. This is an official White House event. We expect the president to talk here, though, at the White House before heading off with the vice president. We'll bring that to you in a matter of minutes now.

Now, this video shows the moment a huge containership slammed into a column supporting the Francis Scott Key Bridge. At least six people remain unaccounted for.

And now joining me to talk about this is a Democratic Congressman Dutch Ruppersberger of Maryland who represents the region. Congressman, thank you for joining me right now. I understand you have been briefed about this incident. What have you learned about how this ship could have lost power and what ultimately led to this crash.

REP. C.A. DUTCH RUPPERSBERGER (D-MD): Well, the first thing we don't know a lot at this point, and we have a lot of people doing a lot of things. And the first thing we're trying to do is to make sure that we have everyone who is still alive that we can help. It doesn't look too good.

We have one person that literally jumped in the water and swam to safety and is now in Maryland's world renowned shock trauma and they're attempting to save his life. So that's kind of the status now. But we have Coast Guard. We have a local, state, federal. It's an all hands on board situation.

Now, let me get into some of the things I think you might be interested. Firstly, I've been representing this area. It's a blue collar area, used to be the home of Bethlehem Steel, which had over 40,000 workers at one time. And I've been representing them for over 20 years in Congress. And it was their county executive before that, which is the mayor.

It's a major artery and part of our primary beltway in Baltimore. It's absolutely critical to commuters. There -- and there are 14,000 cars a day. Thank God that this didn't happen during the day. And, of course, commerce is one of the major shipping channels in the whole East Coast.


Now, initial reports from the Coast Guard indicate that a harbor pilot and assistant were on board. And these are pilots who are specially trained, they live in Baltimore, to navigate the shipping channel. And they are the best of the best. They've been around for many years.

Now, the Coast Guard said the pilot reported power issues. Multiple alarms and loss of propulsion prior to the incident. And according to the National Transportation Safety Board, and they're going to be investigating this, the eastbound lanes of the bridge were shut down due to minor maintenance, filling potholes, and the westbound lanes were open to traffic.

Now, as soon as the call came in, police were notified and began clearing the bridge, and that did save some lives. Rough numbers are that eight or nine victims were involved. But potentially upwards of 14 and we're really concerned that they -- those people are no longer with us.

RAJU: Yes.

RUPPERSBERGER: Police are using license plates -- which is sad.

RAJU: Yes.

RUPPERSBERGER: But we still haven't even identified them yet. I mean, we know there's one car with its lights on, underwater. And there are about five cars underwater, I believe, now.

RAJU: Yes.

RUPPERSBERGER: And the police are using scanners and license plates and all to get a head count.

RAJU: Yes. And --

RUPPERSBERGER: Now, the other thing --

RAJU: We're waiting to learn more about that. Congressman, can you also talk about just the Patapsco River? You know, it is so critical for shipping and commerce. People may not realize it. So just temporarily even shutting it down or shutting down for the long term, what kind of economic impact does this have by shutting down this one?

RUPPERSBERGER: It will be a tremendous economic impact. Baltimore is one of the biggest, largest ports on the East Coast. Every day, day and night, we have shipping coming in and out throughout the world, throughout the United States. So this, I can't even imagine how much we will have to deal with on the issue.

Another thing that we have to be concerned about is when you -- the bridge that is there, the collapse, it took five years to build that. So who knows what we're going to do? We have two other, like, two other funnels that connect the parts of the area to the water. This area of Eastern Baltimore County, again, is where Bethlehem Steel.

There's a large center really called Trade Point Atlanta, and they have tremendous amount of people and development, and it's $1 billion project, and that would be impacted too. We'll work it out.

RAJU: So, Congressman, what does the incident tell you about the vulnerability of bridges nationwide and whether local and federal officials need to do more to ensure bridges are properly reinforced?

RUPPERSBERGER: Well, we need a lot. I'm an appropriator and I'm concerned about some of the things that my friends on the other side of the aisle just are cutting and say we don't need this anymore. This, it's amazing we haven't had an issue.

I can compare it to the -- our airplanes and how we've had very few incidents with -- but some close calls. And that's -- this is something that amazes me, bridges and that we haven't had more of these issues. But this we had everybody -- from what I see first, we had bay pilots there. We had everyone that we needed.

We had a full ship. And then all of a sudden we lost control right before, and that's where this occurred. And thank God, it was at 1:30 in the morning. And we had maybe a minute or so before we knew what was going on and what happened.

RAJU: And we expect more details at the top of the hour when the National Transportation Safety Board does. Congressman, I -- we have to leave it there. We appreciate your time and --


RAJU: -- expertise and knowledge, of course, of this region. We wish the best for your community as well.


RAJU: Thank you.


RAJU: All right. As we wait for the president to come out, we're going to talk about next, Donald Trump richer than he's ever been before, at least on paper. The latest on what's driving Trump's fortune to new heights, next.



RAJU: President Biden set to address the nation after being briefed about that tragic bridge collapse that happened in Baltimore, learning details about everything that happened there. We'll hear from the president in a matter of moments. He'll be speaking from the Roosevelt Room in the White House.

But as we await the president, let's turn to Kevin Liptak, who is outside the White House. Kevin, tell us what you will hear -- what you expect to hear from the president here in a matter of minutes.

KEVIN LIPTAK, CNN REPORTER: Yes, and you see the podium in the Roosevelt Room. The president should be walking out any moment now, and he will be speaking after convening briefings with top officials in the Oval Office to discuss this incident. And we saw a photo of it.

You saw maps sort of schematics that the president was looking at. And really, the message that you've been hearing from officials today is that all federal resources are available for Baltimore as they conduct the search and rescue. You've seen Coast Guard resources in the air on the water, they're looking for potential survivors, those who are still unaccounted for.

The other message that you've been hearing from the White House and other federal officials is that they do not detect any signs of nefarious intent. They say this was an accident and they do want to make that clear.


Just given how dramatic these images are, they don't necessarily want to create any fear among the American people. So when we hear President Biden speak, I wouldn't be surprised if it is a fairly short statement. You typically, when -- we're in the very beginning stages of these events, presidents there's somewhat limited in the extent of the details that they can provide.

But President Biden certainly wants to address the American people and ensure that they know that federal resources are available. You know, the Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has been on the phone since very early this morning, speaking with officials in Maryland, the mayor of Baltimore. He is expected to be on the ground in Baltimore later today.

And certainly, President Biden, I think, will also want to speak with officials at some point. The big question now is what kind of federal resources will be needed to reconstruct this bridge after this recovery effort is over. Certainly this is a major thoroughfare in Baltimore.

I-695, it's a major thoroughfare for trucking, for commuters. And the federal government is going to play, I think, a major role in getting that bridge build back up and running, potentially using funds from the infrastructure bill that President Biden signed into law a couple of years ago.

Now, after President Biden speaks, he is expected to head to North Carolina. He's planning to speak about health care with the Vice President Kamala Harris. There's President Biden. RAJU: There's the president.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Good afternoon. Before I leave for North Carolina, which I'm going to do in a few minutes, I want to speak briefly about the terrible incident and accident that happened in Baltimore this morning.

At about 1:30, a container ship struck the Francis Scott Key Bridge, which I've been over many, many times commuting from the state of Delaware either on a train or by car. I've been to Baltimore Harbor many times. And the bridge collapsed, sending several people and vehicles into the water -- into the river.

And multiple U.S. Coast Guard units, which are stationed very nearby, thank God, were immediately deployed, along with local emergency personnel. And the Coast Guard is leading the response at the port, where representatives from the Federal Highway Administration, the FBI, the Department of Transportation, the Army Corps of Engineers, as well as Maryland officials and Baltimore Police and Fire -- they're all working together to coordinate an emergency response.

Officials at the scene estimate eight people were unaccounted for still -- not still, were unaccounted for. That number might change. Two have been rescued -- one without injury, one in critical condition. And the search and rescue operation is continuing for all those remaining as we speak.

I spoke with Governor Moore this morning as well as the Mayor of Baltimore, the County Executive, United two -- both United States senators and the congressman. And my Secretary of Transportation is on the scene. I told them we're going to send all the federal resources they need as we respond to this emergency, and I mean all the federal resources. And we're going to rebuild that port together.

Everything so far indicates that this was a terrible accident. At this time, we have no other indication -- no other reason to believe there was 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, as you all know and have reported. As a result, local authorities were able to close the bridge to traffic before the bridge was struck, which undoubtedly saved lives.

And our prayers are with everyone involved in this terrible accident and all the families, especially those waiting for the news of their loved one right now. I know every minute in that circumstance feels like a lifetime. You just don't know. It's just terrible.

We're incredibly grateful for the brave rescuers who immediately rushed to the scene. And to the people of Baltimore, I want to say, we're with you. We're going to stay with you as long as takes. And like the governor said, you're Maryland tough, you're Baltimore strong, and we're going to get through this together. And I promise, we're not leaving. Here's what's happening now. The search and rescue operation is our top priority. Ship traffic in the Port of Baltimore has been suspended until further notice. And we'll need to clear that channel before the ship traffic can resume. The Army Corps of Engineers is on the spot and is going to help lead this effort to clear the channel.

The Port of Baltimore is one of the nation's largest shipping hubs. And I've been there a number of times as a senator and as a vice president. It handled a record amount of cargo last year. It's also the top port in America for both imports and exports of automobiles and light trucks. Around 850,000 vehicles go through that port every single year, and we're going to get it up and running again as soon as possible.


Fifteen thousand jobs depend on that port. And we're going to do everything we can to protect those jobs and help those workers.

The bridge is also critical to -- for travel, not just for Baltimore but for the Northeast Corridor. Over 30,000 vehicles cross the Francis Scott Key Bridge on a daily basis. It's virtually the -- well, it's one of the most important elements for the economy in the Northeast and the quality of life.

My Transportation Secretary is there now. As I told Governor Moore, I've directed my team to move heaven and earth to reopen the port and rebuild the bridge as soon as humanly possible. And we're going to work hand in hand with the support of Maryland -- to support Maryland, whatever they ask for. And we're going to work with our partners in Congress to make sure the state gets the support it needs.

It's my intention that federal government will pay for the entire cost of reconstructing that bridge, and I expect to -- the Congress to support my effort. This is going to take some time. And the people of Baltimore can count on us, though, to stick with them at every step of the way until the port is reopened and the bridge is rebuilt.

You know, we're not leaving until this job gets done, not leaving until then. So, I just want to say God bless everybody who -- everyone harmed this morning and their families. And may God bless the first responders, who many of whom risking their lives.

And I'm going to -- the reason I'm not going to take a lot of questions, there's remaining issues that are open that we got to determine what's going to happen in terms of the rescue mission and the like. But I'll -- I'm --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you plan to go to Baltimore, sir? And if so, how quickly?

BIDEN: I do and as quickly as I can. That's what we're working on --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You said the federal government is also going to pay for the repairs. I'm just curious, this was a ship that appears to be at fault. Is there any reason to believe that the company behind the ship should be held responsible? And then, also, you mentioned --

BIDEN: That could be, but we're not going to wait if that happened. We're going to pay for it to get the bridge rebuilt and open.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What did you make of Israel's decision not to attend this meeting this week?

BIDEN: Oh, I don't want to get into that now.


BIDEN: We'll have plenty of time to talk about Rafah.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You mentioned the port --

BIDEN: Thank you. Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can I ask about cars?

BIDEN: Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thanks, everyone.

RAJU: The president there addressing the devastating bridge collapse in Baltimore and making news on several fronts, one saying that the federal government would be there to rebuild this bridge saying they would move heaven and earth to do that and that the federal government would pick up the tab for rebuilding that bridge.

That's something he said that Congress would have to address. He noted the economic impact. 15,000 jobs impacted here in this area as a result of it. He said, we're sending all the federal resources we need to to deal with this massive search and rescue operation that is now underway. He called this a, quote, "terrible accident" as officials have ruled out terrorism in this incident.

He did say that he would also go to Baltimore, didn't give a time frame for that, but the president addressing this major incident here and we're going to continue following the breaking news out of Baltimore. Stay with us.



RAJU: Back to our breaking news. The urgent search and rescue operation underway after a cargo ship slammed into the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore overnight, causing it to collapse in the Patapsco River below it. Officials say six people are thought to still be in the water, and of course a person can only survive very sadly in those conditions for so long.

So for more on that, meteorologist Derek Van Dam joins me now. Derek, what does 48 degree water do to a person?

DEREK VAN DAM, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, frankly, Manu, it's dangerous. It's very dangerous to be included within that type of water temperature, right? So, we can see our heart levels rise rapidly. We can start to see our breathing rise rapidly. And we can lose consciousness very quickly.

Hypothermia, cold shock sets in. It is a very dangerous water temperature to be succumb to. And just zooming in a little bit closer, you can see we've got the Chesapeake Bay to my east and the Patapsco River coming out of the Baltimore Harbor here. And this is right where the key bridge actually collapsed earlier this morning.

So we are going on over 12 hours. So when we talk about human survivability within these types of water temperatures, you can see from this graph, 40 to 50 degree temperatures. That human survivability limit is roughly one to three hours before those physiological effects that I talked to you about a moment ago start to set in.

Now, complicating the efforts not only below the water but also at the surface of the water and above for the search and rescue operations that are currently ongoing is this tidal swing that we have right now. This is an exaggerated, we have a full moon, spring tide, so we have coastal flood advisories dotting the Chesapeake Bay, the Delmarva Peninsula, for instance.

You can see this wording here, dangerous rip currents. And this is just compounded by the fact that the Patapsco River is flowing out of the Baltimore Harbor. And we've got the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic coastal waters flowing out of this region as we approach low tide at 3:10 this afternoon, Eastern Standard Time, and then we'll see that reversal in the tides as we head towards a high tide peak later this evening.

So that could make conditions difficult for the search and rescue operations of the boats, particularly on the surface of the water. Manu?

RAJU: Absolutely brutal. Thank you, Derek Van Dam, for breaking this down.

And thank you for joining Inside Politics on this very busy new day -- news day. Stay with CNN for much more breaking news out of Baltimore. CNN News Central starts right now.