PHILADELPHIA, PENN — Firefighters and other rescue workers were plying through mounds of rubble after two buildings in central Philadelphia collapsed Wednesday morning, trapping several people under concrete, bricks, and other debris. Investigators are considering several possible causes, but are focusing on the role a demolition project on one of the buildings may have played in the incident.
Multiple news sources reported one death as a result of the collapse, but details were not immediately known. Thirteen people found in the rubble were taken to local hospitals to be treated for injuries, CBS Philadelphia reported. Of those injuries, none are reported to be life threatening.
The collapse occurred at a 4-story building housing a Hoagie City shop on the ground level with apartments on the upper levels. According to various news reports, the front of an adjacent one-story building housing a Salvation Army thrift store remained intact but the back of that building had collapsed.
The buildings are located on Market and 22nd streets. Both buildings extend back a block with the rear facing Ludlow St., and are located about seven blocks west of Philadelphia’s city hall.
Reuters interviewed a construction worker on a job near the collapsed buildings who “saw a crane remove a supporting beam from the front of the building,” which he said caused the wall next to the Salvation Army thrift shop to sway. Another witness told Reuters that about the same time he saw a backhoe hit the rear side of the building. Shortly after, he described a “big blast” and saw the building collapse.
One witness told CNN that one of the two buildings was in the process of being demolished when the collapse occurred around 10:45 a.m. People in the area at that time told the press that the ground rumbled and shook like an earthquake.
Rescue workers reported hearing moaning coming from inside the pile of rubble as they worked to access the injured occupants.