The roof of a building in Boston's North End partially collapsed on Thursday, prompting the evacuation of three neighboring buildings, firefighters said.
Several floors were compromised in the collapse of the unoccupied five-story building, which is under construction, on Fleet Street, according to the Boston Fire Department. Residents of the evacuated buildings weren't being allowed to return inside their homes Thursday.
They shared images of the building that appeared to show light visible from the roof in a third-floor window. The collapse took at least two floors with it, fire officials said — they hadn't been able to get close enough to the building to determine exactly how many floors were affected.
Kyle Bayly was packing up and heading out Thursday.
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"One of the firefighters came up, knocked on the door and said that we had to evacuate because the building next door was in a little bit of trouble," said Bayly.
Actually, it was big trouble. Though the building whose roof collapsed was vacant, the incident destabilized three other buildings that are connected, and all of the tenants of those buildings -- about 20 in all -- were to evacuate.
"I was a little nervous at first," Bayly said. "I didn't know what exactly had happened, I was just hoping someone didn't get hurt."
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"I was just kind of lying around and I heard a loud bam," said Mike O'Brien, who lives around the corner. "Which you hear a lot because people unload big trucks around here for restaurants and things like that."
City officials aren't sure what caused the collapse, but the wet and wintry weather may have been the final straw for a weakened structure. Inspectors found that years of water build-up was one of the factors that led to the roof and a wall appearing compromised, the Inspectional Services Department said.
The building's owner was ordered to hire contractors to stabilize the building and develop a plan for mitigating the damage.
"A lived-in building, when you see problems, you deal with problems. If the building is not lived in, then problems can get worse," said Deputy Boston Fire Chief James Greene. "And I think that's likely the situation here."
A contractor told investigators that no work had been done on the building in two years.
"The plan is now to grab a hotel room around the corner and just wait it out," said Bayley. "Come back in the morning and see when I can get back in."
The situation was considered stable, though firefighters were monitoring a wall along an alley that isn't supported.
There was no timeline on when the evacuated residents would be able to go back inside the buildings, but they were working with firefighters on getting their belongings out.