A huge part of a Hard Rock Hotel under construction at the edge of New Orleans’ historic French Quarter collapsed Saturday morning amid debris and dust, leaving at least one man dead and three unaccounted for, authorities said.
Nearby buildings were evacuated and officials said that the construction and a 270-foot (82.3-meter) structure crane still looming over the site were considered unstable. It wasn’t immediately clear how that could affect search and rescue attempts. A drone has been flown over the website in order to help authorities assess the circumstance.
WWL-TV aired and tweeted a viewer’s dramatic video of the collapse, showing upper floors falling on top of each other before one side of the building crashed into the floor.
Another video on interpersonal media was taken by someone aboard one of the city’s famous streetcars as it approached the site while the building was falling. It revealed what looked like a metallic construction — part of the building or a piece of construction equipment — tumbling to the floor and people running from the scene as clouds of dust billowed up, obscuring the view like a thick fog.
Evacuees included guests in a hostel across the road from the damaged building.
“I heard a huge noise and thought it was a plane crashing. Then, the hostel shook,” guest Sue Hurley, 68, told The Associated Press. She said she was reminded of news reports of the 9-11 terrorist attacks.
Another hostel guest, Michael Arbeiter, 30, from Munich, Germany, said that he was just getting out of the shower once the room shook.
“I’m not sure what happened but they told us to get out of here,” he explained. “I’m supposed to stay until Monday. Thank God it was not another 9-11.”
The building was under construction at the corner of Rampart Street and Canal Street, a wide boulevard just outside the Quarter, lined with restaurants hotels and retailers. Canal, which carries six lanes of traffic split by a wide median where streetcars roll, divides the Quarter in the city’s most important business district.
Police say 18 individuals were taken to a hospital for treatment. All were considered stable.
Gov. John Bel Edwards visited the scene and encouraged people to steer clear of the region, which was considered unstable. As dust settled after the morning meltdown, twisted metal, concrete pilings and other wreckage covered a part of Rampart Street.
“It was a deep rumbling sound,” Matt Worges, who saw the collapse by a nearby building, told The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate. “Like an airplane maybe. It drew my head immediately.”
Associated Press reporter Kevin McGill contributed to this report.