An update on a tragedy.
When I was in New Orleans this week I could not resist the urge to personally go see the status of the Hard Rock Hotel.
As you may have followed in the news, the 18 story Hard Rock Hotel structure that was under construction in New Orleans collapsed in part on October 12, some 12 days ago. Three workmen lost their lives. 30 were injured.
In addition the entire 18 story structure of the building is in danger of collapsing, potentially endangering others and possibly damaging historic structures near by.
But most dramatically local officials and the public are concerned about two cranes that are leaning precariously, towering some 25 and 30 stories into the sky. What will happen to them? where will they fall? They are in danger of toppling. How can they possibly get the cranes dismantled or removed without causing further injuries or damaging historic buildings?
The drama associated with this situation is quite something to see and feel in person. The City of New Orleans has been captivated by this developing story for the past 12 days as the officials try to figure out what is the best approach to take to solve this problem.
They have sought and received advice from experts all over the world. They have cordoned off an entire portion of the city, approximately four blocks on the north, south, east and west of the site. They have emergency personnel on duty 24 hours every day. They have evacuated and secured the site and the area surrounding it. They have spent in their recovery and demolition efforts over $5 million in the last 12 days.
New media coverage has been continuous as the local populace has been following each day the developments.
Finally after 7 days they decided upon a plan to remove the cranes. They decided to detonate them in such a way that they will fall in a direction that will not hopefully injure or harm any other people or buildings. Detonation day was this past Sunday.
I arrived in New Orleans two hours after the planned explosion took place. After checking into my hotel I immediately find a bicycle rental shop in order to get some exercise. I ask the staff at the bike shop for suggestions on good cycling routes.
I ignore all of their suggestions and head toward the site of the Hard Rock Hotel, which is right downtown, not too many blocks from Bourbon Street, right on Canal Street, the main drag. It is on the edge of the historic French Quarter.
Streets are blocked everywhere I go. Police are protecting all entrances and exits within a four block area of the hotel.
Somehow I come across a street where the barriers that have been erected to block admission are a little bit scattered. The yellow tape that is used at crime scenes and other disasters is laying on the ground. No one is guarding the spot. So, I calmly ride my bike down the street towards the hotel. Even if I am able to go the four blocks toward Canal Street I will still be one street away from the hotel.
The one thing I notice right away is that there is nobody around me. No one. The street that I am cycling down is vacant. But I keep on going. The detonation has already occurred and I am wearing my cycling outfit with my helmet on. What could go wrong?
Well, when I get down to Canal Street I immediately attract the attention of a couple of officers. And they are exercised. What are you doing here, they ask. Before I can tell them that I am riding my bike, they yell at me to get out of here and point to a barricade which is manned by another policeman. Needless to say, I immediately comply. They ask how I got there. I tell them that there was no barricade on this street where I entered. They were not sympathetic. They were all business.
I wanted to stop and take a picture of the hotel from that vantage point, but decided that was probably not the right time to do that.
What I was able to see from several vantage points, albeit most of them were four blocks away, was the results of the detonation that was designed to bring down the two cranes that were leaning precariously.
What surprised me was that the Mayor and the other officials were announcing that the detonation had gone completely as planned. They were happy with the outcome, as far as it went. They still have to recover two bodies and figure out how to demolish the rest of the 18 story structure.
However, to the uniformed eye at least one crane did not look like it did what they had wanted or anticipated. Admittedly I am not an engineer. Far from it. However, take a look at this picture of the one crane that did not fall to the ground. Rather it fell to the side and got caught on some of the steel structures still extant in the hotel. It is still on the top of the building some 18 stories above the ground. It does not look like this is what they had planned.
Nevertheless the officials are saying that everything went according to plan. You be the judge.
Bottom line, what a human and structural tragedy. And what an eye opener to what is involved in cleaning up and disposing of the mess. And they have a long long road ahead of them before they have finished the demolition.