“Our hearts break for the loss of life today,” New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell (D) said in a tweet. “Our focus is to support the families impacted as rescue and recovery efforts continue and to secure the site.”
Speaking with reporters early this morning, Cantrell said a heavy-duty crane was arriving Sunday to help stabilize the building so teams can move forward with rescue efforts. “That is our priority right now, stabilizing that structure so we can get them out of there,” Cantrell said.
Officials warned throughout the day Saturday that further damage could unfold.
“We are still in rescue mode,” New Orleans Fire Department chief Timothy McConnellsaid at an afternoon news conference, adding later, “This is not a short-term event, this is a marathon.”
Authorities responded just after 9 a.m. local time to the Hard Rock Hotel downtown, where the upper six to eight floors had collapsed, McConnell said. Video and photos capture bystanders’ shock as a cloud of gray dust billows out, wreckage falling onto the road and sending people dashing away.
Those taken to the hospital are in stable condition, officials said. A total of 19 people were evaluated for injuries, but one person was not transported.
By Saturday afternoon, one person who was initially reported missing was found to have made it to the hospital independently, said Emily Nichols, a physician with New Orleans Emergency Medical Services. Others sought treatment on their own as well, bringing the injured tally into the “double digits,” she said.
Officials said they feared a 270-foot crane on site could collapse and urged people to stay away from the scene.
“This remains a very fluid and very dangerous situation, and every few minutes something is falling off of this building,” Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) told reporters midday.
Engineers have determined that parts of the hotel are stable enough to send in search crews with dogs, McConnell said several hours later.
Some surrounding buildings were evacuated by fire personnel, city emergency preparedness campaign NOLA Ready said on Twitter.
The collapse occurred at Canal and North Rampart streets at the southwestern edge of the French Quarter, the organization said. For some shaken bystanders, the scene brought to mind the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks; one witness told a reporter she thought a plane had crashed.
Hard Rock International distanced itself from the New Orleans building’s construction. The group said in a news release that Citadel Builders was contracted by Kailas Companies for the project, based on an agreement with Hard Rock International, which would manage the hotel.
“Hard Rock has had no involvement in the construction of the project,” the company said. “We want to extend our deepest sympathies to victims of this tragic accident and to their loved ones and friends.”
Citadel Builders, too, expressed its condolences for those hurt and their families. Company spokesman Brian Trascher told The Post in an email that Citadel prioritizes safety and will be investigating the collapse. But he did not speak to potential causes.
More than 100 workers were present at the site, he said.
Citadel will work with city officials and experts throughout the night to secure the building for the search-and-rescue team, according to Trascher, who called the next steps “very delicate.”
Kailas Companies did not immediately respond to an inquiry from The Post.
Brittany Shammas contributed to this report