NEW ORLEANS — New assessments show that both cranes at the Hard Rock Hotel construction sight are unstable, forcing officials to expand the evacuation area beyond Canal Street.
The evacuation zone now expands past Canal Street, between Burgundy Street and Elk Place. It already included the area surrounded by Conti, Bienville and Burgundy Streets.
"Both cranes are heavily damaged," Fire Chief Tim McConnell said. "Both are in danger of collapsing ... Our goal is still to stabilize them and continue our search in a safe manner."
The new assessment has forced emergency officials to rethink their current approach to stabilizing the cranes and building.
"We're trying to figure out a plan of attack," Collin Arnolds, New Orleans Director of Homeland Security, said. "Those cranes were going to be used to do one operation.That plan is now on hold, until we can figure out how to do it safely."
Despite the new assessment, search and rescue operations for the last person trapped inside the debris continue. McConnell said that engineers have been inside the building several times today and the Urban Search and Rescue Team is currently doing their third search of the site.
Several floors of the construction site toppled down Saturday amid blinding dust and flying debris. A WWL-TV viewer captured dramatic video of upper floors collapsing Saturday before one side of the building crashed to the street.
Two people are known to have died in the Saturday disaster and 30 were injured.
Rescue crews pulled the body of 49-year-old Anthony Magrette our of the rubble on Sunday. Authorities have also found the body of a dead worker in the rubble, but have been unable to recover it. A third worker is still missing in the destruction as of Monday afternoon.
"We have someone we have not located and can't get to where we think they might be," McConnell said. "Our goal here is to continue making the scene safe so we can continue getting into this building deeper and deeper for rescue purposes."
"We are putting our folks at somewhat risk," McConnell said Monday. "When you're in rescue — you're trying to get some people out — you take a little more risk."
Large sections of two major thoroughfares near the French Quarter and the main business district remained closed, including streetcar tracks and bus routes.
Commuters who are expected to head back to work in Downtown should be aware of several road closures. Several blocks are closed around the collapsed building, so drivers should leave early due to the heavy delays expected.
"I'm asking employers to be patient with your employees," said New Orleans Police Superintendent Shaun Ferguson.
"Traffic will be a problem and we want everyone to have a level of understanding and patience," said NOLA Public Schools Superintendent Henderson Lewis Jr. "Normal bus pickup time may be delayed."
26 RTA bus lines meet in the area and will be relocated, likely for weeks.
"This structure is not stable. We want people to stay away from the area. How we touch it — it just matters," Mayor LaToya Cantrell said.