SOUTH SIOUX CITY, Neb. (AP) — Authorities have not let northeast Nebraska residents who live near a grain elevator damaged in an explosion return to their homes, fearing the structure could collapse at any moment.
Tuesday’s blast blew a gaping hole into the Andersen Farms elevator in South Sioux City, injuring two people.
City Police Chief Ed Mahon told the Sioux City (Iowa) Journal that inspectors haven’t made any determinations on the cause of the explosion.
The structural integrity of the 230-foot (70-meter) tower also remains uncertain, Mahon said. Engineers hope to tear down the elevator in a controlled fashion before it falls on its own.
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The evacuation zone has been reduced, so some residents living near the grain elevator have gone back to their homes. Large steel cargo containers are being placed along streets to help protect homes from debris if the tower were to collapse.
Residents who are still restricted from their homes were permitted to return briefly to retrieve belongings.
Flames could still be seen burning inside the base of the tower on Wednesday evening. Firefighters have continued to monitor the fire, while inspectors and engineers evaluate the building and damage, Mahon said.
“The building will come down,” Mahon said. “They’re still debating one of two strategies to bring it down.”
Engineers are considering using a wrecking ball or another type of machinery to demolish the building, Mahon said.
U.S. Department of Labor spokesman Scott Allen said the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has launched an investigation into the explosion. The agency’s representatives are working at the site, along with the Nebraska State Fire Marshal’s office.