Building Collapse Toll Rises to 12; Search Pressed for 16

Associated Press

Rescuers slowly cut through a 60-foot tangle of shattered concrete and bent steel Friday, searching for spaces that might hold missing survivors but finding only the bodies of the dead.

At least 12 workers were killed and 16 were missing when a downtown high-rise apartment building under construction collapsed Thursday. Forty-one workers from the site were alive and accounted for, including six who remained hospitalized Friday, authorities said.

"We plan to pull out three more dead bodies tonight who are not part of the original nine (confirmed dead)," Lenny Grimaldi, spokesman for Mayor Thomas Bucci, said Friday night.

Chances 'Slim' for Survivors

Earlier, Bucci had said that the search was continuing. "We've told families that the chances that their loved ones are alive are slim," Bucci said.

Hopes fluctuated throughout the day, with rescue workers thinking they heard moaning and a member of a dog unit searching the area saying there were indications of survivors at another location. But as the search dragged on through the raw Friday evening, nothing was found.

Radio stations broadcast a plea for rain slickers for workers at the site, where a cold, windy rain was falling and a fog was creeping in.

At a news conference Friday evening, Bucci discounted reports that tapping had been heard, saying the sounds could have been caused by shifting rubble.

But Caroline Hebart, a member of the U.S. Disaster Team, a dog unit that has been used at earthquake sites, noted that survivors were found for 10 days after the Mexico City earthquake of 1985.

"You wouldn't stay doing this type of work if you didn't have hope," she said.

Call for Quiet

Officials wielding sensitive listening devices called for quiet and closed Interstate 95 exits in Bridgeport for a time to prevent rush-hour traffic from entering the area.

Builders and government agencies all were investigating while rescue efforts dominated the scene Friday afternoon, with six cranes picking off chunks of broken concrete up to 10 feet long or lowering men in cages in an effort to remove smaller pieces of rubble by hand.

Workers with acetylene torches were cutting steel reinforcing bars to release cement blocks and felling bent girders that towered 30 feet over the site of the L'Ambiance Plaza project.

William Lone, a spokesman for the project developer, Delwood International, said at a news conference: "We've got about 15 theories before us" about what might have caused the tragedy, based on rescue workers' comments.

'A Lot of Conjecture'

They include "implosion," a "domino effect" and swaying, "but obviously, at this point, there's a lot of conjecture. It's going to depend on the experts."

John Miles, regional administrator for the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration, said one concern was whether the concrete had been cured. If it were "green," or improperly cured, it would have been weak.

Seven Bridgeport police detectives carrying yellow legal pads and an aerial photo of the construction site fanned out to interview survivors.

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