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Evacuation order, state of emergency lifted at site of Halifax crane collapse

Monday, November 4th 2019, 5:00 pm - Labour Department investigation continues to determine cause of collapose

The provincial government is lifting the localized state of emergency in downtown Halifax imposed following a crane collapse in September, and people evacuated from homes and businesses in the area are now allowed to return.

The crane fell on the Olympus Building, which is under construction on South Park Street, in hurricane-force winds on Sept. 7 as Dorian made landfall as a post-tropical storm.

Crews removed the final pieces of the crane last week and an investigation by the province's Labour Department continues to try to determine the cause of the collapse.

"At this point we know as much as everyone else," Harold Carroll, executive director of occupational health and safety for the Labour Department, said at a news conference Monday.

He said investigators are now reviewing the materials at a secured site and there is no timeline for how long that work would take.

"I cannot begin to tell you what an incredibly complex operation it was to remove that crane," said deputy labour minister Duff Montgomerie.

STILL NO COST ESTIMATE

That operation only started after the province took control of the site and oversaw the project.

Montgomerie said the step was necessary because it was clear the private parties involved "weren't going to step up and help underwrite the liability of the contractors that would have to go in and remove that crane."

Aside from dealing with that matter quickly, Montgomerie said the other advantage to the province stepping in was it had overall control and ability to monitor what was happening at the site.

What the province still doesn't have, however, is a cost estimate for the work. Officials on Monday said they're still waiting for some invoices from contractors and consultants and only then would the total amount be made public.

"This one's complex, it's going to take some time," said Montgomerie.

SOUTH PARK STREET TO REOPEN TUESDAY

Once labour investigators complete their work, the government would seek to recoup all costs associated with the cleanup, said Montgomerie.

The crane is owned and was installed by Lead Structural Formwork Ltd. and toppled from a building belonging to the WM Fares Group.

Work can now resume on construction sites on South Park Street and Breton Street, although the Labour Department has issued orders pertaining to the top floors of the Olympus Building. Work cannot resume on the top levels of that building until an engineering assessment is complete.

Municipal solicitor John Traves said he expected two-way traffic to resume on South Park Street on Tuesday and there would be minimal paving repairs required to get the area back into full operation within the next three to five days.

Traves said the Halifax Regional Municipality would also be looking to recover its costs associated with the cleanup.

"This, to our understanding, is an insurable event and where that takes us we'll have to see."

News that the state of emergency and evacuation order have been lifted will be welcomed by the people in 21 apartment units in the neighbouring Trillium Building and several businesses who were forced to leave following the crane collapse.

Several businesses have drawn attention to the financial hardship the situation has caused and are pursuing a class-action lawsuit.

COMMUNICATION COULD HAVE BEEN BETTER

Government officials said they must continue with the process of evaluating damage from the storm before they know what might be available to people in the form of federal financial disaster assistance.

Montgomerie said communication with affected residents and businesses could have been better in the early days of the project, but part of the reason it wasn't was because of the unknown situation the province was facing.

"In some cases in the beginning we didn't communicate as clearly as we could," he said.

"But I want you to understand something: when you're doing an investigation or a removal as complex as this crane thing, we don't know sometimes about timelines; we don't know about what we're trying to do day after day to bring that crane down."

This article was originally published for CBC News

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