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Seventeen people evacuated as section of Dunkirk building collapses

Seventeen people were evacuated after a large section of a building collapsed shortly after noon Wednesday in the 100 block of Central Avenue in Dunkirk.

Volunteers from Red Cross partnered with SUNY Fredonia State to provide emergency housing for the residents whose apartments were affected.

No one was injured in the collapse, which involved an unoccupied section of the nearly block-long building.

The city’s fire and police and first responders entered the just-collapsed structure just after noon and made sure no one was trapped in the rubble.

The north portion of the historic building collapsed just after noon.

Spokesmen for the Dunkirk police and fire departments said that the 100 block of Central Avenue, where the building stretches between Lake Shore Drive and Second Street, will remain closed to vehicular traffic as the cleanup work continues.

Construction fencing was put in place all around the building to increase safety.

Police spokesmen said the portion that collapsed was vacant and the section containing apartments that housed 36 people and storefront businesses was not affected.

Bricks and debris from the collapsing part of the building , ended up on the street.

Structural engineers continued to work well into Wednesday evening to determine the cause of the partial collapse. Police said the building had no history of structural deficiencies or problems.

No fire problems developed because Dunkirk fire officials quickly ordered the closing of all electric and gas lines to the entire building.

American Red Cross volunteer teams were sent to Dunkirk to assist the apartment residents who need shelter, food and additional support in coming days, according to Red Cross spokesman Jay Bonafede.

Dunkirk police and fire department officials said that several people who were on Central Avenue as the building started to collapse later described it as a big crash sounding like an explosion with brown smoke covering the area surrounding the building and the 100 block of Central Avenue.

Bonafede said specially trained volunteers are helping to replace medications, and disaster mental health workers are available to help those affected deal with the emotional aspect of the collapse. He said the Red Cross is in contact with building and local officials, and caseworkers will meet with the displaced families in the coming days to work on a long-term recovery plan.