Building collapses in Philadelphia

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By Elwyn Lopez and Catherine E. Shoichet, CNN

At least eight people were sent to hospitals after several homes collapsed in Philadelphia Monday morning, apparently after an explosion, a fire official said.

A contractor was doing rehab work in a vacant home when it collapsed, Deputy Fire Chief Robert Coyne told reporters. The two adjacent houses are also collapsing, he said.

Witnesses told CNN affiliate KYW that they heard an explosion and smelled gas after the blast. Coyne said authorities were still investigating what caused the homes to collapse, but it appeared that there was an explosion.

The entire block rumbled, sending neighbors out into the street.

“I was sitting in the house and I heard a big bang,” Mike McGraw told KYW. “The door slammed and the TV went out.”

His son, Mike McGraw Jr., said he saw the buckled buildings and watched firefighters hosing down a man who had been burned.

“They threw this baby out the window because the girl was on fire and the fireman had to catch the baby,” he said.

Coyne said one person was in critical condition and 25 people had been evacuated from the south Philadelphia neighborhood.

Aerial footage of the scene showed a large pile of rubble in between two buildings.

Last month, a four-story wall of a vacant building in Philadelphia collapsed onto an adjacent Salvation Army thrift store, killing six people and injuring 13.

Authorities charged crane operator Sean Benschop, 42, with involuntary manslaughter and other related charges.

CNN’s Melanie Whitley and Sarah Hoye contributed to this report.

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