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Sonar images of Baltimore bridge collapse vividly show scale of removal effort needed

Adm. Linda L. Fagan, commandant of the Coast Guard, Vice Adm. Peter W. Gautier, deputy commandant for operations, Gov. Wes Moore, governor of Maryland, and Mayor Brandon Scott, mayor of Baltimore, use a Coast Guard boat to assess the Francis Scott Key Bridge collapse in Baltimore, Md., this past Friday. Photo by PO1 Brandon Giles/U. S. Coast Guard/UPI
1 of 7 | Adm. Linda L. Fagan, commandant of the Coast Guard, Vice Adm. Peter W. Gautier, deputy commandant for operations, Gov. Wes Moore, governor of Maryland, and Mayor Brandon Scott, mayor of Baltimore, use a Coast Guard boat to assess the Francis Scott Key Bridge collapse in Baltimore, Md., this past Friday. Photo by PO1 Brandon Giles/U. S. Coast Guard/UPI | License Photo

April 3 (UPI) -- As Key Bridge debris removal efforts continued Wednesday in Baltimore, sonar imagery taken by the U.S. Navy Seas System Command released Tuesday by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers showed huge parts of the wreckage sitting on the bottom of the Patapsco river.

A second channel was opened Tuesday afternoon.

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"Divers are working in virtual darkness because, when lit, their view is similar to driving through a heavy snowfall at night with high-beam headlights on -- divers must be guided via detailed verbal directions from operators in vessels topside viewing real-time CODA imagery," the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said on X.

That very poor visibility and weather conditions are hampering the efforts to clear the debris.

The container ship Dali crashed into the bridge's support and caused it to collapse on March 26. Six people were killed.

The underwater imaging tool used to create the underwater debris images even in near total darkness is called CODA Octopus after the company that makes the imaging sonar technology.

Visibility was clouded to just 1 to 2 feet because of the 4 to 5 feet of mud at the bottom of the Patapsco River, according to the Army Corps of Engineers.

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Despite those challenges, the second channel, 14 feet deep, was opened in the river Tuesday afternoon.

In a statement Tuesday, U.S. Coast Guard Cmdr. Baxter Smoak said, "The opening of these two alternate channels and transit of critical response resources, as well as the first commercial traffic movements through the area, is a significant milestone in our response efforts. Our number one priority remains the opening of the deep draft channel. We are simultaneously focused on opening additional routes of increased capacity as we move forward."

A third channel 20 to 25 feet deep is planned. The main channel won't be passable until after the Dali ship is removed.

About 1,000 Army Corps of Engineers personnel are deployed along with specialized equipment to get the wreckage of the bridge cleared and to reopen the Baltimore port.

The Key Bridge Response Unified Command is led by the U.S. Coast Guard. Army Corps of Engineers, Maryland Department of the Environment, Maryland transportation Authority and Maryland State Police.

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