WHITEVILLE, NC (WWAY) — A building collapsed in downtown Whiteville Friday morning while crews were trying to make repairs from Hurricane Florence, according to officials.
“You heard a loud boom and then you heard an explosion like a bomb had went off,” Samantha Singler said.
Singler had just parked her car and was heading in to start the day at her shop “Farmacy” around 9 a.m. and then bricks went flying and the ground began to shake.
“They just flew all out into the street,” Singler said. “Smoke was everywhere. Dust was everywhere so you didn’t know exactly what was going in.”
In the rear of the building, Mayor Terry Mann was gearing up just the same and saw crews working on the former Whiteville Cash and Carry roof, when he parked.
“I had actually felt the ground shake and I thought it was an earthquake, then I realized what was going on,” Mann said. “Then, I came back out and the wall of the building had fallen.”
“They were in the back on the other side removing some of the roof materials,” Emergency Services Director Hal Lowder said. “It’s older construction and it’s all tied in together so when they were removing the roof that created the walls to start to fall in because it’s all connected.”
Lowder said the construction crew did not have a permit to do the work.
It happened on East Main Street beside Smith Chiropractic’s building. Lowder said the building had been vacant for a while. The roof was damaged during Florence.
When crews removed the roof, the building collapsed along with the canopy that connected it to the adjacent Smith Chiropracter.
Mann says years ago the site used to be a former bank.
“Even though the health care facility was not using the drive through, the community was using it as access to the parking lot so those two cars were parked there,” Mann. “It was a two lane driveway and those cars were parked in one lane and the other lane remained open.”
Lowder said they evacuated buildings on either side as a precaution. He adds this part was built back in 1915, but had been renovated multiple times since.
Lowder says crews are working to stabilize the adjacent buildings to ensure there are no additional, unwanted structural damages.
No reported injuries at this time.