NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - The corner of Canal Street where the Hard Rock construction collapse sits in the French Quarter, while still wrought with destruction, is in the beginning phase of returning to some kind of normalcy.
“It’s not perfectly safe but it’s much safer, and you’ll see equipment come in in the coming days,” said NOFD Superintendent Tim McConnell.
Despite the threat of severe weather Monday, city leaders said it didn’t deter them from continuing work on the site. Engineers and investigators were able to enter the Hard Rock, not only for the start of recovery, but also in examining and investigating how successful the implosion of the two cranes actually was.
“It went as planned. You see the street on Rampart is now clear of what fell there. The heaviest pieces wound up on the building, so we were happy with what we had, no loss of life or no injuries,” said McConnell.
City leaders say it will take crews an undetermined amount of time to comb through and remove debris, but they say recovering those two workers still inside is their priority.
“Just know it will be with dignity and respect, and public safety will be the top priority while we remove our people,” said Mayor Latoya Cantrell.
“Immediately, the recovery is going to require some demolition where you’re going to have to pick up and remove those slabs one by one and take them to the street and haul them off,” said civil engineer H.J. Bosworth.
Even though city leaders say they have a good idea of where the two remains are located, Bosworth says unfortunately, the recovery process could take weeks. The mission will require a number of large cranes and fencing around the Hard Rock for safety reasons, a plan the city is already putting into motion. Bosworth says the simple schematics of removing all that debris will be a huge challenge in and of itself.
“Because you have to have a crane there that's tall enough and strong enough to grab concrete floors that are 200 feet above the ground,” said Bosworth.
As the city works to shrink the evacuation zone, they'll also be working to remove the pieces of those demolished cranes.
“We believe the crane is very, very stable. It'll likely be the first thing coming off…piece by piece,” said McConnell.
Now, the most dangerous hazards seem to be behind first responders. But city leaders say they haven't forgotten how much, both in lives and financially, this fatal collapse has cost.
“We’re wanting to make sure New Orleans receives her fair share based on this tragedy that occurred in our city and three lives have been lost,” said Cantrell.
City leaders say the collapse has cost the city upwards of $400,000 a day in overtime and other costs.
OSHA investigators will also remain on scene for the foreseeable future as they conduct their joint investigation with the NOPD.