Rescue operations have ended at the site of the Hard Rock Hotel construction collapse and focus has shifted to maintaining control over the unstable structure.
Rescue workers were searching for a construction worker who may have survived the Saturday morning collapse, but all evidence shows that person is dead, officials said Wednesday evening.
“It’s a difficult decision to make,” New Orleans Fire Chief Tim McConnell said.
The focus will now be on safely bringing down two unstable cranes attached to the building before they fall on their own.
Debris removal has begun around the building, allowing engineers to get a closer look at the structure and figure out how best to bring it down.
They’re working on a tight deadline, with a tropical development forming in the gulf forecast to reach New Orleans Saturday.
“We are absolutely working on a tight timeline,” McConnell said. “I cannot express how urgent it is. The last thing you want is for (the cranes) to decide where they’re going to fall as opposed to us dictating that.”
The bodies of two deceased workers inside the collapse site are being kept in mind as engineers determine how to bring the cranes down. Mayor LaToya Cantrell said that taking care of the families affected by this tragedy is at the center of everything they do.
“They matter,” the mayor said. “And we want – again – dignity, respect throughout this entire process.”
While engineers determine how to bring the building down, firefighters will be escorting people to the cars parked in a nearby parking garage that has been caught in the evacuation zone, leaving hundreds of cars stranded.
“This is being done for a safety reason. As we go to take this building down at some time in the future, those cars will have gasoline in them,” McConnell said.