Halifax Fire orders residents near fallen crane to evacuate homes

Work is getting underway to disentangle the demolished crane wrapped around a downtown Halifax building (Amy Stoodley/CTV Atlantic/Twitter)

Residents of a downtown Halifax neighbourhood are calling for answers after a crane collapsed onto a construction site at the height of Saturday’s storm.

About 30 tenants have been ordered to evacuate their buildings and the fallen crane has become a very popular site for on-lookers who come to gawk at the twisted metal curled over an apartment building under construction.

The crane came toppling down in the height of the storm Saturday afternoon and was captured on video by someone in a neighbouring apartment building when Hurricane Dorian hit Halifax.

One resident, who was forced to evacuate the building Sunday, recalls the scary incident on Saturday afternoon.

"I was sitting in my apartment, which is just up there, and I was looking out during the storm and I saw the crane swaying as the winds started to get stronger and more rain came down and then all of a sudden, I looked up by chance and it looked like it was doing a massive sway and this time it came right down, landed on the building across the way, which was luckily under construction, and it kinda crumpled like a piece of wet spaghetti," said Alex Glista.

While engineers try to figure out the best way to remove the wreckage, Nova Scotia's Labour Department tells CTV News that its occupational health and safety division is investigating and a stop work order has been issued.

Halifax Regional Municipality was restricting vehicle and pedestrian traffic in the area and yesterday afternoon ordered tenants to evacuate some nearby buildings.

"A road and sidewalk closure is in place on South Park Street from the south side of Spring Garden Road to the north side of Brenton Place," the city said in a news release. "These closures will remain in place until officials deem the area safe. Part of Victoria Park is also off limits until the site of the collapsed construction crane is deemed safe."

Halifax Fire implemented a mandatory evacuation order for some residences and businesses near that toppled crane.

Officials say this is still a very dangerous scene.

"We are absolutely concerned," said Halifax Deputy Fire Chief Dave Meldrum. "This crane is suspended on top of a building under construction and that material is under great stress. If any of that material fails, parts of the crane may slide down that building, could slide off on top and hit adjacent buildings. That's really the logic behind the evacuation order today."

Fencing will be put up around the site on Tuesday.

There's no timeline for how long the evacuation order will remain in place.

The Canada Games Centre is being made available as a shelter for those who have had to leave their home. The Canadian Red Cross is also offering assistance.

The crane that toppled was working on a construction site on Brenton Street, a project for Halifax developer Wadih Fares.

"It's unfortunate that it did collapse," said Fares. "We are thankful that no one got hurt. At the same time, we have a problem on our hands and we have to find out what happened there."

Meanwhile, a group of citizens who live in the area are calling for action by developers, the city, and the province.

"The crane on the site at Brenton Place and Brenton Street collapsed and toppled onto nearby buildings," said a news release from Brenton-Schmidtville Liveability Group. "Parts of the crane, including the heavy cement counter-weights, fell into South Park Street. Other parts rest atop an unfinished building."

Christopher Breckenridge, of Clyde Street, and a member of the Brenton-Schmidtville Liveability Group, says he watched the crane swaying in the hurricane moments before the collapse.

“It’s a wonder that nobody was killed or seriously injured," Breckenridge said. "We have at least three construction sites within a block of our house. We have warned people associated with the construction to make sure the neighbours are safe, and then this happens.”

In February, a crane's electrical cables struck something causing sparks to fly in a nearby worksite.

Members of the group are demanding that building developers, HRM and the province hold a public meeting immediately to explain what happened, how it happened, and what they’re going to do to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

With files from CTV Atlantic's Amy Stoodley and Natasha Pace.