Evacuation order partially lifted as efforts to remove crane continue

An evacuation order for residents and businesses near the site of a toppled construction crane in downtown Halifax was partially lifted on Monday as work to remove the crane continued.

Residents and workers that occupy two buildings near the site — 5690 Spring Garden Road and 1491 South Park Street — are now allowed to return to their homes and businesses. These addresses include the Eastlink building as well as the attached apartment building.

"The engineers assigned to the project had a look at the progress they had made today and they determined that the risk of falling objects has been reduced — that the radius was reduced to the north of the Olympus building," said Halifax Regional Fire and Emergency deputy chief David Meldrum.

The crane crumpled and collapsed Sept. 7 after Dorian landed as a post-tropical storm with hurricane-strength winds. Crews worked to stabilize the crane in the weeks immediately following the storm so it wouldn't shift and cause any more damage.

Department of Transportation

The evacuation order is still in place for the Walker Dunlop law firm and the Stillwell Beer Garden, Meldrum said.

"We understand the major inconvenience these evacuation orders have caused for residents, it is being done for safety purposes," he said.

"And we're going to stay in contact with that project and we're going to lift evacuation orders as soon as we possibly can because we know people need to get back to their homes and businesses," he said.

Department of Transportation

The workers started the complex dismantling of the crane on Sunday, but almost immediately fell behind schedule.  

"We had initially given about an hour for welding and it ended up about six hours," said David Hamilton, the project manager. 

Monday morning, the crews focused on the jib, which landed at the base of the building when the crane collapsed. It was cut in two pieces, and safely hoisted away from the scene. 

Then, two workers went up in a basket to start the complicated process of removing the piece of the crane that wrapped around the top of the building. They used chains to attach one section of it — the counterweight jib — to a new crane.

Sparks poured down as they used a torch to try to cut the piece off. As they did so, other workers used fire hoses to pour water down the building and onto a neighbouring home. 

Carolyn Ray/CBC

After several minutes with the torches, the basket was moved away from the piece, as the removal crane tried to pull it off. It took several attempts before they were able to finally remove it. 

"It goes to some of the difficulties that we face doing this project," said Hamilton. "The guy who was using the torch was actually cutting blind. So he had to cut the metal and the guys inside were trying to guide him, and he's of course in a basket 200 feet off the ground, so it's a little tough."

When the piece finally broke away, the large crowd watching below started cheering. 

"We did prevail in the end," said Hamilton. 

Department of Transportation

The crews were expected to spend the rest of the day Monday focusing on the front jib. Hamilton said the scaffolding underneath had been tied back in anticipation of removing it altogether. 

Reporters were not allowed to ask Hamilton any questions about the process or any further steps that would be taken. A spokesperson from the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal said they needed to update stakeholders before they could release any further detail. The spokesperson said they would answer more questions in the coming days.  

Harbourside Engineering Consultants and R&D Crane were hired to remove the crane. It's still not known how long it will take.

Department of Transportation

Halifax Regional Fire and Emergency ordered the evacuation of some homes and businesses near the site of the crane collapse on Sept. 9. Nine days later, the Nova Scotia government declared a localized state of emergency

On Friday, fire officials ordered 11 residents to leave additional condos in the Trillium building as a precaution.

Government of Nova Scotia

The building under construction from which the crane toppled belongs to the WM Fares Group.

Premier Stephen McNeil has said the province would try to recoup the costs of removing the crane.

Right now, the government is unsure of whom to pursue to recover those costs or what the amount may be.

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