Rescue personnel work at the scene of a collapsed four-story building in… (Jacqueline Larma / AP )
Authorities were searching for at least two people believed to be trapped beneath the rubble of a collapsed building in downtown Philadelphia after 12 people escaped with minor injuries, officials said Wednesday.
The incident, which will be investigated, was being treated as an accident. There were no reports of any explosion at the site, and there was no fire, officials said.
Parts of a four-story property collapsed onto a Salvation Army thrift store at 22nd and Market streets at about 10:45 a.m., Mayor Michael Nutter told a televised news conference.
The larger building had valid permits for demolition work, officials told reporters.
The building came down onto the Salvation Army store, which was in use at the time, Nutter said. The back of the store was heavily damaged, according to images broadcast from the scene.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with all of the people involved,” Nutter said.
The 12 patrons of the store were rescued and taken to hospitals, city Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers told reporters. All were in stable condition with minor injuries, he said.
Two people remained trapped under “tons of rubble” early Wednesday afternoon, the fire commissioner said.
“We have located them, and we're going to continue until we can get them out and we can get them to hospitals,” he said.
“It is delicate. This is dangerous work,” Nutter said.
Rescuers were searching through the debris looking for those believed to be trapped, officials said. Heavy equipment was being used and officials had asked television stations to limit the use of helicopters so that officials could hear any cries for help.
The incident happened at 10:45 a.m. at the western slice of downtown, between the city's main principal district and its main train station. This is one of Center City’s poorer commercial areas, where there is an adult bookstore and thrift shops.
Witnesses told reporters that they heard a loud rumbling sound immediately before the collapse. Veronica Haynes was on the fifth floor of an apartment building across the street.
“I was standing there looking out my window, watching the men at work on the building, and the next thing I know I heard something go kaboom,” she said. “Then you saw the whole side of the wall fall down ... onto the other building,” she told the Associated Press.
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