Two are dead and one person is missing after a large section of a Hard Rock Hotel under construction in downtown New Orleans collapsed Saturday (Oct. 12), injuring more than 20.
Mandatory evacuations in the surrounding areas were issued as city officials are concerned about further collapse, CNN affiliate WDSU reports. New Orleans Fire Department Superintendent, Tim McConnell, compared the damage to that of an earthquake.
“I heard a huge noise and thought it was a plane crashing,” said Sue Hurley, a 68-year-old guest at a hostel across the street from the soon-to-be Hard Rock Hotel, located near the city’s historic French Quarter. Over 100 workers were on site during construction of the building when the structure gave way. More than a dozen were injured, two were killed, and one is still missing. All three are still in the building, officials said.
Rescue workers searched that unstable building until nightfall when the hunt was suspended over safety concerns. The search reportedly resumed Sunday morning.
The injured were taken to area hospitals Saturday. All but one person has been discharged, nola.com reports. He remains in stable condition after undergoing surgery.
McConnell has urged drivers to find alternative routes to work come Monday morning, as the area is blocked off from all traffic — both pedestrian and vehicular.
“The workday is tomorrow, so please plan ahead,” McConnell said. “We ask employers to be understanding — (employers) may be delayed.”
About 100 residents have reportedly been displaced due to mandatory evacuations near the site, several homeowners are seeking assistance through the New Orleans Health Department, officials said.
Authorities have not said what caused the collapse but WWL-TV shared a viewer’s footage of the building’s upper floors collapsing before one side of the building crashes to the street. Separate video footage shows workers emerging from a cloud of dust after the floors fall on top of each other.
Following the incident, Hard Rock International released a statement making clear the company had no involvement with construction of the building.
“Citadel Builders LLC was contracted by Kailas Companies, owner of the project, to build the Hard Rock Hotel based on a brand licensing agreement with Hard Rock International, the future manager of the hotel. Hard Rock has had no involvement in the construction of the project. We want to extend our deepest sympathies to victims of this tragic accident and to their loved ones and friends,” the statement read.
Mayor LaToya Cantrell released a statement Saturday night, thanking the public for their support.
“Today’s collapse was a tragedy, and our hearts break for the loss of life,” said Mayor Cantrell. “Our focus is on continuing to secure the site and to doing everything we can to support the families impacted as rescue efforts continue.” She also noted that the rescue mission will shift into an investigation to learn what caused the building’s collapse.
Citadel Builders have vowed to work with with emergency officials on a plan to stabilize the building.