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Section of Canal Street in New Orleans collapses into tunnel

SHERRI MILLER/NEW ORLEANS ADVOCATE 
 A large sinkhole appeared Friday afternoon on Canal Street near Harrah's Casino in New Orleans.
SHERRI MILLER/NEW ORLEANS ADVOCATE A large sinkhole appeared Friday afternoon on Canal Street near Harrah's Casino in New Orleans.

NEW ORLEANS -- A section of a main boulevard in New Orleans collapsed into a mostly unused tunnel Friday, two weeks after traffic was restricted there because problems were discovered in the tunnel.

No one was injured when part of Canal Street collapsed, Mayor Mitch Landrieu said, but he called the event a "catastrophic failure."

Canal Street divides the French Quarter from the central business district. It is lined with stores and hotels and serves as a main thoroughfare.

Traffic was restricted April 15 after officials noticed a bulging wall and leaking water in the tunnel, which was built in 1966 for a later-abandoned riverfront expressway project.

The tunnel stretches from Canal to nearby Poydras Street. Parts of it have been used for parking at a downtown casino.

Landrieu blamed the collapse on a massive leak from broken pipes under the street that undermined a wall inside the tunnel.

"This is nothing short of amazing," he said, standing next to the gaping hole. "We're going to fix it as fast as we possibly can."

He said it will take up to six months to fix. Cedric Grant, the head of the New Orleans Sewerage and Water Board, estimated it will cost between $3 million and $5 million to repair.

Landrieu said pipes damaged by flooding from Hurricane Katrina are leaking across the city and undermining roads and infrastructure.

"All of the pipes under our city have holes in them and are bleeding," he said.

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