Now that two cranes at the partially collapsed Hard Rock Hotel in New Orleans are toppled, crews can begin searching for two bodies that remain in the debris, city officials said Sunday.
Video showed the cranes tumbling down on Sunday after strategically placed explosives detonated not long after 2:30 p.m. local time (3:30 p.m. ET).
Warning horns were heard blaring moments before the construction cranes, which had towered over the damaged construction site, snapped into pieces and toppled.
One of the cranes was seen falling to the ground amid plumes of smoke and debris generated by the explosion. Sections of the second crane could still be seen hanging over the top of the damaged building once the smoke cleared.
Searching the rubble
Portions of the Hard Rock Hotel, which has been under construction at the edge of the city’s historic French Quarter, collapsed October 12. Three people were killed, although only one body has been recovered, and 30 injured.
At a news conference, city officials said they were satisfied with the demolition.
“We know that we are safer now than we have been in the past eight days,” Mayor LaToya Cantrell said.
CNN affiliate WDSU reported that one falling crane damaged a sewer line, which the city expected to happen. Three windows were broken at the Saenger Theater, Fire Superintendent Timothy McConnell said, according to WDSU. The building is still dangerous, he said.
The next step is removing two victims in the debris, Cantrell said. Search teams placed a monitor near one of the bodies to help teams “identify and pull him out of rubble as soon as possible,” Cantrell said.
McConnell said initial assessments suggest both victims remain in the same positions as they were before the demolition. The demolition was designed to make the cranes fall away from the bodies, he said.
“We’re going to have to pull a lot of debris that’s hanging overhead to get to them,” McConnell said. “But we will succeed, trust me.”
After the bodies are recovered, the next step will be “full demolition,” Cantrell said.
Giant cloud of dust
More than 100 construction workers were at the site when the collapse occurred, according to one of the construction companies.
Video footage showed workers emerging from a giant cloud of dust after the upper floors collapsed and debris filled the street.
Crews had hoped to bring the cranes down Friday evening, but that plan was delayed over fears of high winds from Tropical Storm Nestor, officials said.
The demolition was then rescheduled for Saturday, but the experts discovered the cranes were more damaged than previously thought and needed to make some adjustments to the demolition.
An evacuation order was put in effect for areas around the site Sunday morning.
By Ralph Ellis and Alta Spells, CNN