PHILADELPHIA – Just days after a downtown Philadelphia building collapsed, killing 6 people and injuring a dozen others, another building collapse blocks away has led to the evacuation of several surrounding buildings.
According to authorities at the scene, an excavation site at Eighth and South Streets was deluged with rainwater all day, causing the ground underneath an adjoining building to become unstable and give way Monday night around 8. No one was reportedly injured by the cave-in.
Officials investigating the collapse said that that excavation was taking place too close to a retaining wall, which the heavy rain had eroded.
According to Philadelphia’s Fox 29, a wall running along several properties on South Street collapsed into a hole, taking a utility pole and the attached wires with it. The wall had been hand-decorated with mosaic tiles.
Police also told Fox 29 that the integrity of the street was in jeopardy because rainwater had entered the excavation hole and was washing away dirt from underneath Eighth Street. The possibility of more ground cave-ins forced police to tow cars away from the area. Residents and all others in nearby buildings were evacuated for the same reason.
Last Wednesday’s building collapse that killed two Salvation Army thrift store workers and four shoppers remains under investigation, but evidence so far points to poor safety at a demolition site next door. The four-story building next to the thrift store had been under demolition for weeks when it suddenly collapsed. A heavy equipment operator working for a construction contractor has been charged with six counts of involuntary manslaughter, 13 counts of reckless endangerment, and one count of risking a catastrophe.
But statements made by Philadelphia officials to the Associated Press indicate the city’s construction problems are much deeper than just one worker. The deadly collapse triggered an investigation and regulatory review across multiple municipal agencies.
Philadelphia’s City Council on Monday announced that it had formed a special committee to “conduct a broad review of procedures and regulations regarding licenses and permits, construction and demolition, the certification of workers, building maintenance and other issues,” the AP reported.
City Councilman Jim Kenney, chair of the labor and civil service committee, said that in Philadelphia, construction safety standards are sometimes lowered to save money.
“There is an underground economy that’s grown up as a result of the issue relative to the cost of construction,” Mr. Kenney said. “The cost of the construction should not trump safety.”
Pictured is a Google Earth view of the property adjacent to the excavation site prior to the building collapse.