New Orleans implodes damaged cranes on partially collapsed Hard Rock hotel
NEW ORLEANS, La. - After looming over the streets of New Orleans for over a week, two damaged cranes that leaned precariously over the remains of a partially collapsed hotel were brought down Sunday afternoon using a series of controlled explosions.
Loud blasts reverberated quickly as the cranes fell. The first crane toppled down, landing upright on Rampart Street, while the other could be seen hanging over the side of the building.
Louisiana officials originally had planned to topple the cranes on Friday, before pushing the demolition to Saturday and then Sunday over crane stabilization issues and safety concerns. The Hard Rock Hotel, near the city's iconic French Quarter, was under construction when it partially collapsed on Oct. 12, killing three workers and sending debris into the neighborhood below.
The two cranes -- one 270 feet high and the other about 300 feet in height -- have been a concern for officials for over a week, out of fears they may fall on their own and cause further injury and damage to nearby buildings.
"As they got up and got closer they found out some things about it that have changed the way they are going to take it down ... and that's going to take a little longer for them to accomplish," Fire Chief Tim McConnell told reporters on Saturday. "The cranes are more damaged than they thought."
Two bodies remained in the hotel's unstable wreckage and Mayor LaToya Cantrell said recovering the remains would be a priority once the cranes were down. The cause of the collapse remained unknown. Cantrell and McConnell said evidence-gathering started soon after the collapse, and lawsuits already have been filed against the project's owners and contractors.
On Sunday morning, officials closed off streets in the evacuation area and other places nearby that could be affected by the implosion. Area residents were warned to prepare for a lot of noise when the demolition took place, with city officials comparing it to the sound of fireworks.
The city also issued an evacuation order for the areas immediately surrounding the stricken building, with temporary evacuation zones stretching into historic areas popular with tourists.
Services such as electricity, gas, water, and sewer also were shut off in the evacuation zone.
The planned implosion was set to take place sometime after 1 p.m. but was delayed well into the afternoon as officials conducted last-minute safety checks and made sure no one had sneaked into the hotel. Safety officials also were asking people not to be on rooftops during the implosion.
Tourists, employees and people living in the area have spent the past couple of days milled about taking photos, but officials stressed that they did not want people approaching the site to watch the demolition.
"We prefer people to not be out here when this thing happens," McConnell said. "It's a dangerous operation."
Some, however, arrived just for this weekend to witness it themselves.
“You're not going to see something like this every day,” Mike Mason told Fox 8 on Saturday. “The horrific site of the building is just horrible.”
This is a developing story. Check back at FOXNew.com for updates.
Fox News' Bradford Betz and The Associated Press contributed to this report.