PHILADELPHIA -- A four-story building being demolished collapsed Wednesday on the edge of downtown, and the fire commissioner said as many as eight to 10 people were believed trapped in the rubble.
Dozens of paramedics and fire crews were on the scene working to find those trapped, city Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers said. At least five people were taken to hospitals, officials said.
The collapse involved a four-story building that once housed a first-floor sandwich shop. It collapsed, sending tons of debris onto a Salvation Army corner thrift store next door. The two are adjacent to an adult bookstore and theater that had been taken down earlier.
Witnesses said 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.''
Bill Roam, a 54-year-old construction worker who has been working on a remodeling project at a nearby site for several days, heard the collapse and ran over. He said the dust was so thick that it was hard to see, adding that he was concerned in recent days by the way the building was being demolished.
High school student Jordan McLaughlan said he saw several people on the ground being given oxygen by rescuers after the collapse.
``It was hard to breathe, there was a lot of dust everywhere,'' McLaughlan said.
Rescuers were using buckets and their bare hands to move bricks and rubble to search for anyone who might be trapped.
The accident happened at 10:45 a.m. Wednesday on the western edge of downtown, between the city's business district and its main train station.