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6 Dead After Building Collapses In Philadelphia


Rescuers in Philadelphia spent the night looking for more victims of a building collapse that left at least six people dead. Philadelphia's mayor is expected to provide an update on that search-and-rescue operation this hour. The deadly accident actually began with a vacant building that was being demolished, when it suddenly collapsed and part of it fell onto and destroyed a thrift store which was open and filled with customers.

More than a dozen people have been rescued from the rubble so far. NPR's Jeff Brady joined us to talk about what we know so far.

JEFF BRADY, BYLINE: Good morning.

MONTAGNE: So the rescue continued through the night. What is happening at the site this morning?

BRADY: Well, the area around the building, it's still very active. You see lots of firefighters and other rescuers there. Most of the night crews were sifting through the debris, and much of that work was by hand, brick by brick. They were searching for survivors. There was some good news. Late last night, rescuers found a 61-year-old woman in the rubble, and she was alive and reportedly was able to talk.

They pulled her out, took her to the hospital, and she had been trapped in there for more than 12 hours. Authorities say they don't know how many people were in the thrift store when the building next door collapsed, so they don't even know how many people they should be looking for. All they can do is continue to search for them.

MONTAGNE: So there might be more survivors. Tell us about the area there in Philadelphia, and then more details on what exactly happened.

BRADY: Right. This is in downtown Philadelphia, very densely populated. It's just a few blocks across the Schuylkill River from the 30th Street train station. That's the main train station in Philadelphia. The building is on a busy road, Market Street.

And when the collapse happened, this four-story building was being demolished. And this particular block, it's not the nicest part of the area there. And it wasn't surprising to see a redevelopment project underway there. I talked with a few people who were nearby when the accident happened, and they described a loud boom, that sound, and then a huge cloud of dust.

Three men I interviewed said they'd dropped what they were doing and headed to the Salvation Army Thrift Store next to that building. The back section of the thrift store was crushed by falling bricks, and those men said they were able to pull out a few people before the rescue workers arrived just a few minutes later.

MONTAGNE: Well, Jeff, just briefly, were there any precautions being taken to protect the Salvation Army Thrift Store from doing business while this demolition was going on next door?

BRADY: You know, I couldn't see any evidence that there were precautions being taken. There's obviously investigations underway. We're going to learn more about that here in the coming days and weeks I suspect. But clearly, that store was open. We saw a video of some of the demolition work that took place over the weekend, and you could see that there was a backhoe parked right in front of the thrift store, and it was just kind of knocking away at the building.

And there were people who live in the neighborhood who said they had some concerns about how this demolition was being undertaken.

MONTAGNE: Well, Jeff, we'll hear more from you as this story develops. Thanks very much. That's NPR's Jeff Brady, in Philadelphia. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.