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'Heavy damage' after Mardi Gras World struck by barges: NOFD

May 08,2018 04:16

Mardi Gras World, a major New Orleans attraction, was struck Monday evening (May 7) by "several barges," which inflicted significant damage to the building, according to the New Orleans Fire Department. About 6:45 p.m., "a tug lost steering and ran ...


Mardi Gras World, a major New Orleans attraction, was struck Monday evening (May 7) by "several barges," which inflicted significant damage to the building, according to the New Orleans Fire Department.
About 6:45 p.m., "a tug lost steering and ran several barges into the Mardi Gras World facility," said NOFD Superintendent Tim McConnell.
"Mardi Gras World sustained some pretty heavy damage," McConnell said.
"As the barges came in, they broke the pilings and caused the wharf structure to fall in," he said. The structure on top then caved in, he said. No one was inside the building at the time.
About 200 feet of wharf have been affected, McConnell said. Structural engineers were on the scene Monday evening but the full extent of the damage will not be known until after daylight Tuesday, he said.
The incident did not affect incoming Mayor LaToya Cantrell's inaugural ball, which was being held nearby, McConnell said. However, access to the wharf area was being restricted, he said.
"It just slammed right into it," said Whitney Sterk, a volunteer who was working the inaugural event. She said the third of a string of barges headed downriver slammed into the wharf. 
"It was just like bam!" Sterk said. "The middle section sort of lost control."
After the collision, dust clouded the air, looking like smoke, Sterk said. "You see all the dust and you're like, oh shoot, is that a fire because you don't know what is this barge carrying."
No injuries were reported. The Coast Guard will be in charge of investigating the collision. 
"The building is significantly damaged," said Barry Kern, CEO and President of Mardi Gras World and Kern Studios. "There were floats and props and things that were damaged in what we call our prop-shop."
Kern said a full damage assessment will take place Tuesday. 
"Thank God no one was hurt," Kern said.
Blaine Kern's Mardi Gras World is a famed float-making facility that doubles as a tourist attraction and event venue, allowing guests a peek at how assorted materials are transformed into ornate displays of Mardi Gras magic.
Blaine Kern Studios opened Mardi Gras World in 1984 after fielding repeated requests for private tours. About 10 years ago, Mardi Gras World moved from Algiers to a much larger spot, its current location near the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center.
Reporter Laura McKnight contributed to this report. 

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