Rescue teams in New Orleans yesterday were still sifting through the wreckage of an under-construction hotel that partially collapsed on Saturday, trying to find the body of one deceased person and another whose status is unknown – all while fears mount of further collapse and deteriorating weather.
Tests showed that two cranes at the site of the Hard Rock Hotel at 1031 Canal Street were unstable and could collapse, forcing officials to expand the evacuation zone around the site.
"We’re trying to figure out a plan of attack," said Collin Arnold, director of New Orleans’ Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, according to a city hall briefing yesterday.Â
"Those cranes were going to be used to do one operation. That plan is now on hold, until we can figure out how to do it safely."
Engineers and experts who responded to the 9/11 terror attacks and the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing are assisting.
Officials are worried about an increased chance of rain and wind in the coming days.
So far, two people are known to have died and at least 30 were injured when floors six through eight of the planned 18-storey building collapsed at around 9am on Saturday, 12 October.
"We are still trying to locate the one individual we have not accounted for," said New Orleans Fire Department Superintendent Tim McConnell. "Obviously we are hoping for the best, but as this (situation) drags on, the chances of that diminish. We have been in touch with both of the families of both of the people that are missing and keeping them well informed about what’s going on."
On Monday McConnell told media that both cranes were in danger of collapsing, and that "our goal is still to stabilise them and continue our search in a safe manner."
The city is providing walk-in mental health services at New Orleans Public Library for people affected by the collapse.
The hotel was being built by Metairie, Louisiana-headquartered Citadel Builders LLC for real estate firm Kailas Companies, the development’s owner.
Image: Two cranes at the construction site of the Hard Rock Hotel are unstable and could collapse (New Orleans Fire Department/Twitter)