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Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott on the impact of the Key Bridge collapse


Emergency crews are responding to what is being described as a mass casualty event at the scene of a major bridge collapse in Maryland. It happened after a large cargo ship rammed into the 1.6-mile-long Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore, causing it to crumble and fall apart. The governor has so far said there's no signs that this is terrorism, that it appears to be an accident. Officials are still working to confirm how many people have been impacted, including missing construction workers who were servicing the bridge at the time of the collapse. I spoke earlier to Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott, who has been on the scene since early this morning and continues to be there. He had just received a phone call from President Biden.

Mayor Scott, I want to just start with how your city is doing, where you are right now and how this rescue operation is going. I understand you just got a call from the president.

BRANDON SCOTT: We're hurting. Right now, our focus is on search and rescue to try to save lives. And that's where our focus will remain until it's no longer a search and rescue mission. I did just hear from President Biden. I've been hearing from his team all day - Secretary Buttigieg, the Homeland Security secretary - and the president was just giving his thoughts and prayers, and understanding and knowing the Port of Baltimore very well throughout his history, has said that he and his administration are going to be there to support us in any way that they can as always, and we're very grateful to him for it.

FADEL: Now we know that two people have been rescued. Others are still missing. Do you have any idea how many people this might have impacted, how many people are searching for their loved ones right now?

SCOTT: Right now, our latest number for folks that we are still trying to actively locate in the water is six. We know we had those two that were rescued, one who is in critical condition, one who refused treatment. But right now the focus is on those six people in the water.

FADEL: And those are the construction workers who are servicing the bridge?

SCOTT: Yeah. The construction workers who were simply just working, providing for their families, trying to make transit for other folks in Baltimore and Maryland better.

FADEL: And what about people who were driving on that bridge at the time of the collapse? Do we know anything about anybody else that might have been impacted?

SCOTT: So as of right now, we do not believe that there was anybody driving on the bridge...

FADEL: That's good.

SCOTT: ...As it collapsed. That's - could change. We do know that after a call, a mayday call was put out from the boat, our fabulous workers and our State Transit Administration were able to shut down traffic coming onto the bridge in both directions, saving lives. And those personnel, our heroes, were doing that.

FADEL: What do you need, mayor? What does your city need as you go into the search and rescue operation, but also to deal with the recovery after today?

SCOTT: Yeah. Look, right now, we have great support from the federal government, as you just heard from the president himself. We are working in tandem here, our state government and local governments. We have fire department unions, diver units from Baltimore City, Baltimore County. We have state assets here. The Coast Guard is here. Our police assets are here. We're going to continue to do the work. But anything that we need, we will make the ask for, for sure.

FADEL: The construction workers, the six missing people - are you in touch with their family?

SCOTT: We know that our partners and the state government has been in contact with those families. We'll continue to lift up and support them in every way.

FADEL: Yeah. Well, we hope for good news for all six of those people and their families and for your city. Thank you for taking the time.

SCOTT: Thank you. Thank you very much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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Leila Fadel
Leila Fadel is a national correspondent for NPR based in Los Angeles, covering issues of culture, diversity, and race.