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Philadelphia building collapse: Was demolition being done correctly?

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Jordan McLaughlin/AP

(Read caption) Emergency personnel respond to a building collapse on the edge of downtown Philadelphia on Wednesday. A building that was being torn down collapsed in an accident that witnesses said was bound to happen.

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Search-and-rescue efforts continue Thursday at the site of a Philadelphia building that collapsed during demolition Wednesday, killing six and injuring 14, as new eyewitness reports emerge that call into question whether the demolition was being done properly.

Authorities have not officially ended the search but have identified all those reported to be missing after spending much of the night combing through bricks and rubble with buckets and their bare hands.

"We're going to keep searching until we're absolutely sure no one else is there," Philadelphia battalion fire chief Charles Lupre said shortly before dawn.

The cause of the sudden collapse, which occurred at 22nd and Market streets in Philadelphia's busy Center City district, is under investigation, according to city officials.  

Nearby construction workers were widely quoted in the media as questioning the safety of the demolition site for weeks before the event, but there are no reports that they voiced their concern to authorities.

Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter told The Philadelphia Inquirer that demolition directly next to operating commercial or residential properties is common.

"There are demolitions taking place on a daily basis," said Mayor Nutter. "So it's not unusual that there would be people in a store or building next to where a demolition is taking place.

Eyewitness accounts of the collapse said heavy machinery played a part in the collapse.  

One witness, Dan Gillis of Cinnaminson, N.J., a construction worker on a job across the street, told Reuters that he saw a crane remove a supporting beam from the front of the building and then the wall next to the thrift store started to sway.

Jeffrey Fehnel of Philadelphia told Reuters that a backhoe hit the rear side of the building at about the same time.


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