A building collapsed in downtown Philadelphia on Wednesday and rescue workers pulled 14 people from mountains of crushed concrete and splintered wood, using search dogs to scour the rubble for others, fire officials said.
Thirteen victims were rushed to area hospitals, said Philadelphia Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers, who declined to comment on local media reports that the 14th died in the collapse.
A four-story building under demolition collapsed onto a neighboring two-story Salvation Army Thrift Store at 2140 Market St. at 10:45 a.m., trapping people under debris, Ayers said.
Those pulled from the rubble suffered minor injuries and were taken to area hospitals where they were in stable condition, he said.
One witness, Dan Gillis, 31, of Cinnaminson, New Jersey, a construction worker on a job across the street, told Reuters he saw a crane remove a supporting beam from the front of the building, and then the wall next to the thrift store started swaying.
Another witness, Jeffrey Fehnel, 48, of Philadelphia, said about the same time a backhoe hit the rear side of the building.
"The building came down. It was like a big blast," Fehnel told Reuters.
Authorities said the cause of the collapse was still under investigation.
The fire commissioner said rescue workers were searching for more survivors and he expected the effort to last 24 hours. The incident occurred at 22nd and Market streets in the heart of Philadelphia's Center City.
"We have two dogs that have come out to work the pile to locate others so we know exactly where to dig," Ayers said. "We're moving a little bit at the time."
Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter told reporters at a news conference at the site that it was unclear how many people had been in the thrift store when the collapse occurred.
A witness told Reuters the building collapse shook the ground and knocked a man off his feet on the sidewalk outside the thrift store.
"It was ground-shaking. The shaking of the ground made the man fall down," said Jordan McLaughlin, 18, of Philadelphia.
Police urged the public to stay away from the area while rescuers dug through the rubble.
Authorities said the building that was being demolished had housed an X-rated book and video store. They said it was owned by Richard Basciano, a well-known owner of adult entertainment properties including Philadelphia's last X-rated movie house, which closed in 2012, and the New York Times Square pornography emporium known as Show World, which closed in 2004.
Basciano did not immediately respond to a call seeking comment.
© 2014 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.