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6 killed in Philadelphia building collapse

A Center City building that was undergoing demolition toppled onto a busy Salvation Army thrift shop yesterday, killing at least six people and injuring 14, the last of whom was pulled from the debris just before midnight.

Amid pandemonium and choking dust, bystanders and emergency responders pulled survivors from the collapsed thrift store at 22nd and Market streets, which had been crowded with morning shoppers who turned out for its weekly "Half-Off" sale.

Firefighters, assisted by search dogs, dug through piles of bricks to extract survivors and recovered the body of a 35-year-old woman in the debris in the afternoon. The body of two more victims, including a 68-year-old man who worked there, were recovered in the evening.

In recent days, witnesses said they watched with growing concern as the demolition progressed and the crews did not appear to properly support a wall that adjoined the thrift shop. One worker at the store told her husband of large fissures in the wall.

Mayor Michael Nutter declined to speculate about the cause of the 10:45 a.m. accident, saying the matter was under investigation. He said it was "not unusual" for a building to be occupied next to an ongoing demolition. Police did not identify the victims.

Half the facade of the destroyed thrift shop was still standing last night, with clothes hanging in the window.

Most of the injured escaped from the wreckage quickly, Nutter said. One woman, who was buried under debris for two hours before she was rescued, was able to walk out on her own, he said.

Carlton Williams, commissioner of Licenses and Inspections, said there were "no existing violations on the property. It was permitted, and the contractor did have a license."

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