NEW ORLEANS — Would-be rescuers spent a fourth day searching through the unstable wreckage of a collapsed New Orleans building amid diminishing hopes a man missing in the rubble will be found alive. Meanwhile, experts mulled how to stabilize and remove what’s left of the uncompleted hotel building and two giant construction cranes in danger of toppling.
Two people died in Saturday morning’s partial collapse of what was to be an 18-story Hard Rock Hotel at the edge of the French Quarter on Canal Street. One body has been recovered. Another body is known to be in the wreckage. And authorities held onto a dimming hope Tuesday for a possible rescue of the one missing worker.
“Obviously, we’re hoping for the best,” Fire Chief Tim McConnell told reporters. “But you know as this thing drags on, the chances of that diminish.”
The situation could take weeks to resolve. Experts from around the world were called in to help, including crane manufacturers and engineers and the Thornton Tomasetti engineering and consulting firm that aided in the cleanup and recovery at Ground Zero after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
The prolonged danger of further collapse means the indefinite closure of two major thoroughfares — Canal Street and the intersecting Rampart Street — along with streetcar lines and bus routes adjacent to the French Quarter and business district.
The disaster is the latest setback in efforts to revive a section of historic Canal Street that had been economically moribund despite its proximity to the Quarter.
The Hard Rock Hotel was expected to be a major boost to that revitalization.
Now, because of the danger of further collapse, commerce around the site has come crashing to a halt of uncertain duration.
Among the casualties in the danger zone was the Saenger Theatre on Canal, a 1927 movie and live performance palace restored to its flapper-era glory in 2013, eight years after it was badly flooded because of levee failures during Hurricane Katrina. Touring versions of Broadway hits have been a success at the Saenger but performances of “Wicked” that were supposed to run through this week were canceled and the future of other productions is unclear.
Also closed was the tony New Orleans Athletic Club, constructed on Rampart in the 1920s, and boasting a celebrity guest list that over the years has included Tennessee Williams, Johnny Weismuller and Govs. Huey and Earl Long. The facility told members via its website and emails that it had arranged for other fitness centers to accommodate their workouts during the closure.