4-story building that collapsed in East Orange was being renovated

Posted: Updated:

A massive, gaping hole remains in a vacant building in East Orange that suddenly collapsed Saturday evening.

It happened around 5:45 p.m. The former rooming house at the corner of William Street and North Arlington Avenue had been under renovation for nearly two years as a proposed residential rental development.

No injuries were reported, but the collapse left a huge pile of debris spilling into the street.

Crews were planning to demolish the rest of the building and clean up the rubble.

Some nearby buildings were evacuated as a precaution on Saturday.

The cause of the collapse is still unknown.

Neighbors say they're concerned about how the building was being constructed. News 12 talked with city officials who said they're checking with the building department to make sure all the proper permits were issued for the construction work.

One of the building owners who was at the scene chose not comment on the collapse or take any other questions.

"It's a horror because it's right next to a building where I have a lot of friends in and they could've been hurt," says Amy Bates, who lives in the neighborhood and had just returned from vacation. "What if this building was all the way up and had families living in it... Lives would've been lost."

People at the scene say there was a state of panic during the collapse.

"I heard the noise," says Jamella McNeil of East Orange. "It went on for about 25, 30 seconds and then I just saw a big cloud of smoke and I felt like it has to be some type of debris."

City officials say neighbors who were evacuated have returned to their homes, and they should be able to stay put while the rest of the demolition work takes place.

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