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Forecast podcast: Baltimore bridge collapse leaves six presumed dead, raises economic concerns

The wreckage from the collapsed remnants of a bridge rest atop a massive container ship

Editors Jimmy Lovaas and Joe Veyera discuss the collapse of Baltimore’s Francis Scott Key Bridge, plus more on elections in Turkey and Pakistan, Portugal’s new government being sworn in and a public transit strike in Paris..

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These stories and others are also available in our free weekly Forecast newsletter.

This episode was produced with work from Factal editors Joe Veyera, Halima Mansoor, Jeff Landset, Jess Fino and Sophie Perryer. Produced and edited by Jimmy Lovaas with additional writing by Sophie Perryer. Music courtesy of Andrew Gospe.

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Factal Forecast podcast transcript

This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.


Welcome to the Factal Forecast, a look at the week’s biggest stories and what they mean from the editors at Factal. I’m Jimmy Lovaas.

Today is March 28th.

In this week’s forecast we’ve got a bridge collapse in Baltimore, elections in Turkey and Pakistan, Portugal’s new government being sworn in and a public transit strike in Paris.

You can also read about these stories and more in our weekly newsletter, which you’ll find a link to in the show notes.

Baltimore bridge collapse

Information compiled by Joe Veyera

JIMMY: Up first, we’ll take a look at the Baltimore bridge collapse. For more on that I’ve got the lead for our Americas desk, Joe Veyera.

JIMMY: Hello, Joe!

JOE: You know, Jimmy, I’m still waiting for you to invite me on to talk about something good.

JIMMY: You’re going to be waiting a while. Unfortunately we don’t have anything good to discuss today, it’s rather unfortunate. We saw a completely unexpected story unfold early Tuesday morning in Baltimore. And what can you tell us about it?

JOE: Yeah, so, a little before 1:30 on Tuesday morning, a cargo ship struck a bridge support of Baltimore’s Francis Scott Key Bridge, sending the span into the waters of the Patapsco River below. Six construction workers that were repairing potholes on the bridge at the time are presumed dead, but a mayday call from the ship as it veered off course allowed emergency crews to halt traffic shortly before impact, preventing the toll from being significantly worse. Early indications are that the vessel lost power and the crash was an accident, despite numerous conspiracy theories you may have seen online.

JIMMY: Yeah, well, where do things stand now? Are there any chances of finding survivors?

JOE: The search and rescue effort ended Tuesday evening, with officials saying those missing were unlikely to have survived that long in the water. Recovery efforts are ongoing as of Wednesday and we currently have no timeline for when the Port of Baltimore, which is the nation’s busiest for cars and light trucks and handled more than $80 billion worth of cargo last year, will reopen. Meanwhile locally, more than 30,000 drivers will have to find a new route through Baltimore, with much of that traffic diverted to a pair of tunnels spanning Baltimore Harbor. Trucks carrying hazardous materials actually can’t use those tunnels, so they’ll really bear the brunt of the detours.

JIMMY: What’s the response been like to all this?

JOE: Well, President Biden has already pledged federal support and is committed to “moving heaven and earth,” to assist in recovery and rebuilding work, and at the moment at least, there doesn’t appear to be any significant opposition in Congress, though obviously that could change for whatever reason. There’s also been some question as to whether anything could have been done to prevent a collapse in the event of a collision like this, but we’re talking about a 95,000-ton vessel here. Even if the pier had been outfitted with fenders to guard against any sort of impact, it’s unclear that it would have been enough to protect it from a direct hit. It’s really hard to convey the size of this ship, but it would fit lengthwise into the skyline of most major American cities, for scale.

JIMMY: Well, considering all that, what do you think folks ought to be watching for next?

JOE: There’s a lot to monitor actually. In the short-term, the ongoing port closure will have an impact on global trade as shipments are diverted, and some suggest car prices could rise as inventories drop. And we’re likely talking about months, not weeks when it comes to clearing the river. The bright side is that, compared to the Ever Given incident in the Suez Canal a couple of years ago, it’s significantly easier for shippers to adapt to one closed port as opposed to a pass through waterway being blocked. Longer-term, as I mentioned we just don’t have any timelines for clean-up and rebuilding, and it’s difficult to compare to other bridge projects just due to the number of factors at play. But the original Key Bridge took five years to build in the 1970s. And finally, we’ll have to wait and see the results of the investigations into the incident, particularly the structural element and if there was ultimately a way to keep the bridge upright if it were hit.

JIMMY: Well, Joe, we’ll pause there today, but as always, thank you so much for getting us caught up to speed. Always appreciate you.

JOE: Anytime.

JIMMY: Take care.

Turkey local elections

Information compiled by Halima Mansoor

JIMMY: Millions of voters in Turkey will cast their ballots in closely watched local elections on Sunday.

The vote is for mayors, district mayors and local administration, but these polls may also play out as a referendum on President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s popularity

They may lay the groundwork for whether he will find a way to remain in power or set up for succession.

Istanbul is seen as the most critical vote with popular incumbent mayor and Republican People’s Party candidate Ekrem Imamoglu widely seen as a future presidential contender –  potentially against Erdogan. 

Once Istanbul’s mayor himself, Erdogan sees that role as a rite of presidential passage. 

His Justice and Development Party government inadvertently showcased Imamoglu’s winnability in 2019 by insisting on a rerun which he also won

The current Justice and Development Party candidate, environment minister Murat Kurum, may be more lackluster than the 2019 one, but the government has had five years to prepare, even controlling who the public gets to see on TV.

Now, if Kurum wins Istanbul, it will likely be seen as a signal for Erdogan to dig in deeper – either by ensuring a fourth term or by setting up the country for a succession plan in his image. 

If Imamoglu wins, the ruling party is expected to create political discord and push for a more religious constitution

Either way, people will be on the streets on election night. 

Any Republican People’s Party losses in key cities of Ankara, Izmir or Hatay will establish the party as a has-been and quite possibly those areas will lose their secular credentials. 

Other impacts will run quieter but deep – like whether the Kurdistan Democratic Party will get to keep any elected mayors after most of its officials were replaced with “trustees.” 

More potential impacts include a possible reduction of space for the LGBTQ community, and bureaucratic hurdles where local government is not aligned with Ankara.

Pakistan’s Senate elections

Information compiled by Jeff Landset

JIMMY: Pakistan’s National Assembly will elect 48 new Senators in a vote Tuesday.

The indirect elections to Pakistan’s 100-member upper house come amid ongoing political unrest in the country surrounding the arrest of former leader Imran Khan.

Candidates backed by Khan won 93 parliamentary seats in last month’s elections, although this isn’t enough for a ruling majority. 

It’s likely to be the same story in Tuesday’s Senate elections.

The parliamentarians are expected to vote along party lines, meaning candidates affiliated with Khan’s PTI party will likely win a plurality, but not a majority, of seats.

The newly-elected senators will serve a six-year term.

New Portuguese government sworn in

Information compiled by Jessica Fino

JIMMY: Luis Montenegro will be sworn in as Portugal’s new prime minister on Tuesday.

Montenegro is the leader of the center-right Democratic Alliance, which won 80 seats in parliament following snap elections earlier this month.

The Socialist Party came in second with 78 seats, while the far-right Chega party won 50 seats. 

No coalitions have been formed at the moment, meaning Montenegro will lead a minority government, with the Socialist Party in opposition.

However, he is under pressure to try and form an alliance with the Chega party in order to pass legislation through parliament.

This includes the budget, which will be presented in October.

If the new government can’t pass this spending bill, it’ll force a new election, Portugal’s third in two years.

Montenegro also faces challenges reforming the country’s deteriorating health and education systems, with public sector employees demanding better pay and working conditions.

Public transport strike in Paris

Information compiled by Sophie Perryer

JIMMY: Rail services in France’s capital region will be disrupted next Thursday.

The CGT union, which represents workers at the RATP public transport operator, has called for strike action over pay raise proposals.

RATP’s management has proposed a flat increase of €100 per month per worker. 

The CGT says workers won’t see the full benefit of this offer until January 2025 as the increase is paid in two stages. It says its members need the extra money now.

The union has filed a strike notice through Sept. 9, meaning industrial action is possible at any time until this date.

This could mean further strikes take place during the Paris Olympics in late July and early August, disrupting journeys for the 15 million people who are expected to travel to the city for the games.

Two other unions, the UNSA and FO, have already stopped taking part in negotiations to keep services running during the Olympics.

JIMMY: As always, thank you for listening to the Factal Forecast. We publish our forward-looking podcast and newsletter each Thursday to help you get a jump-start on the week ahead. Please subscribe and review wherever you find your podcasts. We’d love it if you’d consider telling a friend about us. 

Today’s episode was produced with work from Factal editors Halima Mansoor, Jeff Landset, Jessica Fino and Sophie Perryer. Our interview featured editor Joe Veyera and our podcast is produced and edited by me – Jimmy Lovaas, with additional writing by Sophie Perryer. Our music comes courtesy of Andrew Gospe.

Until next time, if you have any feedback, suggestions or events we’ve missed, drop us a note by emailing

This transcript may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability not guaranteed. 

Copyright © 2024 Factal. All rights reserved.

Music: ‘Factal Theme’ courtesy of Andrew Gospe

Top photo: A Singapore-flagged container ship crashed into a support column of Baltimore’s Francis Scott Key Bridge on Tuesday, sending the span into the Patapsco River below. (Photo: David Adams / U.S. Army Corps of Engineers)

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