NEW YORK – Rescuers clawing through bricks pulled a 7-month-old baby and four other victims to safety Thursday after a former supermarket under demolition suddenly collapsed, sending a shower of rubble onto a Manhattan sidewalk and street.
Firefighters and police were on the scene within minutes of the collapse, which trapped the pedestrians beneath the remnants of the crumbling building in upper Manhattan. Some of the victims may have been waiting at a nearby bus stop, which was crushed in the accident.
"I thought it was a terrorist bomb, people were running everywhere," said Racquel Gayle, who was a half-block away when she heard a loud boom. "I saw them pull a baby out of the debris. Everyone was pitching in and helping, but I stood frozen in fear. I've never seen anything like this."
The baby girl was expected to survive, and none of the pedestrians' injuries were life-threatening, Mayor Michael Bloomberg (search) said. One person suffered two broken arms and two broken legs, Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta said.
He said the building's front wall and roof came down, taking the surrounding scaffolding with it.
The cause of the collapse was under investigation; authorities ordered a halt to the demolition of the former Gristedes supermarket. Work began several weeks ago as the property owner cleared the way for a 31-story apartment building.
"I saw rubble everywhere," said Jennifer Kumble, who was bringing her 3-year-old son to day camp when she came by the site. "People were standing there crying. It's amazing that more people weren't hurt."
Five firefighters were injured in the rescue effort, including one who suffered a broken ankle, Scoppetta said. All 25 construction workers at the site were located.
Residents have opposed the skyscraper plan for the site and have held protests — including one Wednesday night.