LOWER MANHATTAN, New York City (WABC) -- A vacant five-story building collapsed in Lower Manhattan early Friday morning, sending chunks of debris crashing through nearby scaffolding and forcing evacuations.
It happened around 3:30 a.m. at 21 Park Place, near City Hall.
Though the damage was barely visible from outside, FDNY Deputy Chief Frank Leeb said all five floors inside collapsed.
"From the roof all the way to the first floor, in a pancake, which is a straight down fashion," Leeb said. "There is no visual sign from outside, so just from looking at it out here, you will only see minor damage to the building."
Firefighters put up their ladder truck and were able to see from the roof down that all the floors inside collapsed.
Leeb tells Eyewitness News the collapse left just the two side walls of the building standing, with nothing to hold it up.
Someone called 911 after seeing the facade of the building come down.
"We were sleeping, and then we heard firemen on our roof, and they had gotten up there by the ladder," a neighbor said. "One of the firemen said that the interior of that building with that scaffolding had collapsed, and you can actually see daylight through those upper windows."
Authorities created a collapse zone and evacuated eight people from a building next door for safety.
"(It's) certainly fortunate that nobody was walking on the sidewalk at the time, because the debris that fell is very heavy," Leeb said. "It certainly would have hurt somebody."
It appears the building was either being renovated or demolished when the collapse happened.
Leeb added that the weather may have been a factor.
"The rain or the heavy wind may have contributed to the collapse we had here," he said.
City buildings department records show a permit for interior work was issued in September.
Inspectors said the building will have to be demolished using hand tools, which makes for a more laborious process.
It does not appear that the structural stability of other buildings has been affected, but the buildings department investigation continues.
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Entire interior of 5-story building collapses in Lower Manhattan