Part of an under-construction New Orleans hotel collapsed on Saturday morning, leaving at least two people dead and one other missing, authorities say.
Video of the incident shows portions of the Hard Rock Hotel New Orleans crashing down on lower floors, forcing construction workers and others in the area to flee the scene amid a cloud of dust and debris.
At an on-site press conference with Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, New Orleans Fire Department Chief Tim McConnell on Saturday said there is "one confirmed fatality" and three people still missing. Overnight, city officials said an additional person had been found dead.
Search and rescue efforts continued on Sunday.
One construction worker estimated to Nola.com that there were 45 workers on site on Saturday.
The 18-story building was to be the home of the Hard Rock, a mixed-used development with 350 hotel rooms in the city’s theater district. Before the collapse, the building was surrounded by scaffolding and multiple cranes.
While it's not immediately clear what caused the incident, video shows the Hard Rock’s top floors caving in, before one face of the building and parts of its support structure come crashing to the street below.
At least one person working within the building’s higher floors can be seen running in the footage before they are overtaken by a shroud of dust.
Officials said at the press conference that the site was still dangerous, with fears that debris was still falling from the building and worries about the stability of the 270-foot crane looming above the construction site.
“Now is not the time to be sightseers,” Edwards said. “You’re not going to be allowed anywhere near the site of the collapse. So please do yourself a favor, but more importantly, do the first responders a favor so they can focus on the situation at hand and not have to focus on pedestrians.”
According to Nola.com, the 190-foot high rise received approval in 2011 to be built at what was then nearly three times the site’s zoning height of 70 feet. The city council passed the plans in a 5–2 vote.
In a statement, Hard Rock International made it clear that it had no role in the construction of the building.
"Citadel Builders LLC was contracted by Kailas Companies, owner of the project, to build the Hard Rock Hotel New Orleans based on a brand licensing agreement with Hard Rock International, the future manager of the hotel," the company said. "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."