Eleven days after a crane toppled over in downtown Halifax, it’s a crisis.
The province declared a localized state of emergency on Wednesday afternoon.
“The safety of Nova Scotians is our primary concern and any further delay is not acceptable,” Chuck Porter, the minister responsible for emergency management, told a news conference. “As a government, we are stepping in to move forward as quickly as possible.”
The localized emergency area includes the city block that takes in Cathedral Lane, Brenton Street, Brenton Place and Spring Garden Road. The declaration lets the province step in to oversee the safe removal of the crane, which came down during hurricane Dorian.
It also offers protection to the engineering firm supervising the removal of the crane and the company bringing in at least three new cranes to work on the project.
“What it does is indemnify the parties that are coming in and moves the liability onto the province,” said Labour Minister Labi Kousoulis. “Essentially we’re the insurance company for those two organizations.
“In terms of removal of the crane, the issue of indemnity came up over the weekend. At that point, all parties involved were working very quickly to put the proper insurance in place. The province was also talking to its insurance consultant to also engage in the process. We felt the process wasn’t going to happen quick enough, so at that point we used this measure so the indemnity could fall to the province, and we could get the project moving forward.”
Kousoulis said while an investigation continues to look into the cause of the crane collapse, the priority is to get the residents who have been evacuated and businesses that are closed back to their normal lives. He doesn’t know where that investigation stands.
Challenging process will take weeks
He said no further evacuations will be required, but without knowing the cause of the crane collapse, he can’t say how evacuees could be compensated. And until the cause is known, there’s nowhere to put liability.
“The question came up, if any further damage occurs to the building, who is liable? At that point the parties involved, both the developer and the crane company, were moving forward to get extra insurance put on the site,” the minister said. “But that wasn’t going to happen in a timely fashion. When we realized that this wasn’t going to move in a fast enough manner for public safety and to get people back to their daily lives, we moved in to take on the liability.”
The state of emergency is for 14 days, but could be renewed. Kousoulis said he doesn’t know if the province could be out of pocket.
Mark Reynolds of Harbourside Engineering Consultants says the extensive damage to the crane adds to the challenge of removing it, a process he said that will take weeks, but not months.
“We’re dealing with a structure that the post-failure behaviour we really can’t predict. ... We’re not able to analyze it, like we would a regular engineering project,” Reynolds said. “We have to make engineering judgment calls and we have to be very careful because the structure right now is what we call in a state of equilibrium. ... We’re going to be cutting something apart that is pretty much mangled in places, so we can’t be sure that maybe a piece won’t fall off when we cut it. It’ll be quite challenging to remove it from some locations, because it’s very close to the Trillium building.”
The toppled crane, which will be removed in pieces, is now sitting on the Olympus property and Reynolds said part of that building will have to be removed.
“The overall building itself is in good condition, but the upper two roofs, the penthouse roof and the mechanical roof, as they call it, (are) compromised, which you can see from the street.”