PHILADELPHIA (AP) - As a bulldozer began to clear away the debris of a collapsed building that killed six people, city officials said a search for the dead and injured was nearly complete today and an investigation had already begun to determine how a relatively commonplace demolition job could have gone so wrong.
Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers said crews still need to search about 20 percent of the site of the collapse, including the back of a thrift store onto which the vacant four-story building under demolition collapsed, an effort that was expected to last through the afternoon.
Firefighters were hosing down piles of bricks as heavy machinery scooped up massive piles of debris and filled a large receptacle to be trucked away. Inside what was left of the Salvation Army thrift store, an undisturbed rack of clothing remained standing in a rear corner.
Rescue efforts were buoyed early Thursday when a 61-year-old woman was pulled from the rubble alive and conscious 13 hours after the collapse. That woman, Myra Plekam, was hospitalized in critical condition and has floated in and out of consciousness. At least 14 others were hurt, many with minor injuries.
"That's why we stay the course," Ayers said. "This person being pulled out alive is what this rescue operation is all about."
Workers combed through bricks and rubble using buckets and their bare hands well into the night.
It was unclear what role the demolition work might have played in the collapse, but the accident raised questions about how closely the highly visible spot on Market Street, one of Philadelphia's signature boulevards, was being monitored, particularly amid word of the demolition contractor's many legal and financial troubles. Officials from the U.S. Department of Labor and Occupational Safety and Health Administration were at the scene.