Officials Try to Soothe Nerves Following NJ Garage Collapse

Relief as officials report no one trapped in first collapse despite initial fears

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Search-and-rescue teams raced to an apartment building in New Jersey this morning in hopes of finding two potential victims who may have been trapped after a large parking garage collapsed.

    Hackensack officials say they have begun inspecting every high rise in their city to make sure no others are threatened by conditions similar to the one last week that brought down the underground garage of 300 Prospect.

    "I have ten inspectors out this morning,' said Joseph Mellone, Construction Official for the City of Hackensack.

    Mellone said they are making a preliminary observation of conditions at the row of high-rises nearby, and will call in structural engineers if they see anything of concern.

    But by the end of the day Monday, inspections of more than a dozen high and mid rise buildings in Hackensack revealed no major threats or flaws, according to Mellone.

    "Nothing major" is how he described a handwritten list of at least half a dozen items found in buildings near 300 Prospect Avenue, which suffered a catastrophic garage collapse Friday morning.

    Nonetheless, Mellone said officials are "a little sensitive right now to everything," and the results of Monday's inspections will be reviewed with state officials on Tuesday.

    As for the building at 300 Prospect, Mellone said one crack has been spotted in one of more than a hundred support columns for the building. The residents, who were all forced to evacuate, will be allowed to return on Wednesday.

    But he added officials don't know if the crack predates last week's garage collapse.

    The inspection and investigation still to be done there means that the three hundred-plus residents will don't know when they will be able to move back in.
      
    City Manager Stephen LoIacono did say he hopes they will be able to get in Wednesday to retrieve clothes and other personal items.

    Officials are also looking into reports of a possible warning to the building's management from its engineering firm about a potentially problematic leak in the garage.

    Amazingly, no one was hurt in the first collapse, the force of which caused an 18-story condominium tower to shake for a full three minutes, according to residents in the building.

    No rescuers were injured as they searched for potential victims, according to Hackensack Fire Lieutenant Stephen Lindner. Considering the size of the parking garage, he says it's a miracle the damage wasn't worse.

    It was a "major tragedy averted," Lindner told reporters at a news conference Saturday morning. 

    Art Samaras of the Red Cross says the management company has assured him it will offer financial assistance to anyone with no place to go, "No one will be left unsheltered," he said.

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