WATCH: Implosion of cranes attached to the collapsed New Orleans hotel
NEW ORLEANS - New Orleans officials set off thundering blasts intended to topple two cranes that had been looming precariously over a partially collapsed hotel, but only one crane appeared to make it to the ground.
The explosions sent off massive clouds of dust Sunday afternoon. After the dust cleared, a large part of one crane could still be seen hanging atop the building. The end of one of the cranes, meanwhile, fell to the ground.
Authorities say the demolition of two cranes leaning precariously over a partially collapsed New Orleans hotel went exactly as expected and the "next objective" is to retrieve the bodies of two dead workers still in the ruined building.
Mayor LaToya Cantrell told a news conference after Sunday afternoon's controlled explosions of the cranes that "we know that we are safer now than we have been in the past eight days" since the hotel collapsed.
She told reporters near the hotel site that authorities will now begin focusing on bringing out the two remaining workers who died when the Hard Rock Hotel under construction collapsed Oct. 12, killing three workers. One body was removed earlier.
Fire Chief Tim McConnell said one sewer line was damaged by falling debris from the blasts but overall, "I do not think it could have gone much better." He says part of one crane fell and got "hooked on the building like we wanted. It's very stable." He says it will be cut away in pieces and removed. The other crane crashed to the ground.
Mayor LaToya Cantrell says their future plans are full demolition, she wants nothing salvaged on the sight.
"I want complete demolition," said Cantrell.
The explosion was pushed back to Sunday after a delay.
The announcement came Friday morning amid concerns that a potential tropical system developing in the Gulf could make the situation even more hazardous in the coming days.
The New Orleans Fire Department says portions of the two tower cranes at the site will be cut with torches and broken up by small explosives. They expect small amounts of debris to fall around neighboring areas which are already blocked off. All utilities, including gas and electricity will also be turned off.
It's all part of a larger plan to secure the area which has been deemed unsafe for nearly a week since it originally collapsed. Businesses surrounding the construction site have been inaccessible since Saturday.
Officials are sending out warnings to residents and business owners about the plan. They are trying to avoid problems but say there's still a chance the explosions could cause damage to gas lines.
That kind of damage would take a long time to repair.
A video posted to social media this week reportedly showed the temporary supports that held up the parts of the Hard Rock hotel were on the verge of giving way days before the deadly collapse.
McConnell: plan is to use "small" explosives to take down towers. Rear tower moved 4 inches overnight, front tower closer to Canal moved 2 inches— Matt Sledge (@mgsledge) October 17, 2019
WWL reports the video was posted by Randy Gaspard, a New Orleans-area concrete contractor. The video purportedly taken by a worker Thursday, two days before the upper floors of the building collapsed, was taken inside the construction area. The Spanish-speaking worker could be heard criticizing the engineering of the structure.
“Look, Papo, 'the best engineering!' Look at these large stretches (between supports) and s**t beams! (unintelligible) They’re already to the point of breaking," he says in the video.
“What it shows is that the concrete deck has so much deflection that they can’t remove the shore posts,” Gaspard said. “They have so much load on them, it’s bending them.”
Gaspard said he was told workers had been removing the temporary posts. He says, “when they got to less and less of them, got more and more load on ‘em,” workers tried to tell the contractor to stop but were told to keep going.
The video also seemed to show water pooling in some areas, which Gaspard said was another sign of flaws in the design.
The upper floors collapsed Saturday, killing at least three people. First responders have said the search is on for another missing person, but they fear two large cranes at the site have also become unstable and are in danger of falling too.
The city has ordered a temporary evacuation for the area surrounding the Canal Street site.