‘Good likelihood of further collapse’ – engineers scramble for solution after setbacks Tuesday

Louisiana

Debris hangs on the side of the building after a large portion of a hotel under construction suddenly collapsed in New Orleans on Saturday, Oct. 12, 2019. Several construction workers had to run to safety as the Hard Rock Hotel, which has been under construction for the last several months, came crashing down. It was not immediately clear what caused the collapse or if anyone was injured. (Scott Threlkeld/The Advocate via AP)

“We’re kind of writing the book on this right now.”

NEW ORLEANS (WWL-TV) — With no solution in sight, rescue workers saw something terrifying at the site of the Hard Rock hotel collapse Tuesday — movement from one of the cranes.

According to Fire Chief Tim McConnell, one of the two unstable cranes standing precariously over the collapse site moved an inch on Tuesday.

“This thing is moving,” McConnell said. “It is a very dangerous building. Firefighters are taking an immense risk to get the job done.”

How crews will stabilize the two cranes is still unknown. According to McConnell, the initial idea that more cranes could be brought in to stabilize the site is no longer an option.

“It hasn’t been the best of news,” he said. “It doesn’t appear we’ll be able to use cranes to take this crane apart and stabilize it. We’re working on other ideas and other techniques to stabilize it.”

Experts from all over the world have been brought to New Orleans to find a solution, including engineers who responded after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York City, but it’s unlike anything they’ve seen before.

“We’re kind of writing the book on this right now,” New Orleans Homeland Security Director Collin Arnold said. “We keep hearing words like impossible, unpredictable.”

An evacuation zone has been set up around the collapse site to keep the public safe incase one of the cranes does come down. Rescue crews are still at risk though, and so are the historic buildings nearby.

“There’s no protecting (other buildings) with that thing coming down,” McConnell said. “There’s nothing you can do.”

The timeline to find a solution for the unstable structures may be tightening as well. A disturbance is forming in the Yucatán and could come to New Orleans this weekend.

“We’re looking at a timeline of about Friday to Saturday,” Arnold said. “It’s very early, but they’re saying this could be a tropical depression, maybe a tropical storm … This is something very concerning to us that we will follow very closely.”

Engineers fear wind and rain could cause some of the debris barely hanging on after the collapse to come down, possibly knocking down the cranes.

“There is a very good likelihood of further collapse of this building,” McConnell said. “I have no doubt.”

At the same time, rescue workers continue to find paths deeper into the debris. 

According to McConnell, crews were able to collect a fluid sample from a trapped worker killed in the collapse. Authorities confirmed the worker was dead on Sunday, but haven’t been able to reach their body due to the unstable structure. That sample will be used to identify the victim.

Rescuers are still searching for the final missing worker lost after the collapse. Searches will continue for a few more hours Tuesday before being called off for the night.

“You hear of miracle recoveries in collapses,” McConnell said. “A collapse like this? A pancake-type collapse of a massive structure like this? It becomes very small once you get past three days. You’re probably getting under 10% (chance of survival) once you get past three or four days.”


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