Roof collapse prompts evacuation of apartment building in Worcester

WORCESTER, Mass. — A partial roof collapse at an apartment building in Worcester forced nearly 80 residents from their homes Friday.

Acting Deputy Fire Chief Adam Roche said planned roof work had been underway at the Mill Street building Friday morning, when a portion of the roof caved in, crashing into the third floor and through to the second.

Investigators believe the weight of materials, including large bundles of foam insulation boards, caused the partial collapse.

“Crews arrived and found the building continuing to collapse,” Roche said. “We had approximately 40 to 45 firefighters here, and they went through the entire building on the inside or via windows, breaking windows to try to get residents.”

Jacob Elbirt told Boston 25 News he was home when he heard loud bangs and found an estimated six-foot hole in his ceiling.

“It was just a shock, and everything happened in a flash of probably about 60 seconds,” Elbirt said. “The entire ceiling just completely opened up and erupted in gushing water and sediment and dirt.”

Elbirt grabbed his cat and got out, as dozens of others evacuated. No one was injured.

“Very lucky people weren’t home, people weren’t underneath, unbelievably lucky no one was hurt,” Elbirt said. “I thank God.”

Peter Clark received a call from his neighbor and rushed home from work to rescue his pets. He stood at the doorway to his apartment, the unit below visible through the broken floor, and called to his emotional support dog, Molly.

“I was thinking bad thoughts to be honest with you. I didn’t know how they could survive that,” Clark said. “There was no floor. And I called [Molly], and she had to tiptoe across, up against the wall, because there was nothing for her to walk on. It was all collapsed in like a bomb had gone off.”

A crane removed the remaining roofing materials Friday night as residents sat on the grass watching.

Safety inspectors assessed the entire building Friday night and found several areas structurally unsafe. No one was allowed to return overnight.

A few residents at a time were able to enter their apartments in unaffected areas of the building with an escort to retrieve belongings.

Some residents made plans to stay with friends or family, while the United Way arranged hotel rooms for others, Worcester Emergency Management Director Charles Goodwin said.

Goodwin said safety and electrical checks will be done this weekend to determine if any apartment are safe to return to, even temporarily before full repairs are made to the four destroyed units and several others that are damaged.

The Salvation Army provided its mobile kitchen on scene Friday to feed and hydrate displaced residents.

Download the FREE Boston 25 News app for breaking news alerts.

Follow Boston 25 News on Facebook and Twitter. | Watch Boston 25 News NOW