HAWTHORNE, New Jersey (WABC) -- The walls of a basement collapsed in a New Jersey apartment building Sunday morning, forcing the evacuation of residents.
The walls caved in shortly after 9 a.m. at the Hawthorne Gardens apartment complex at 100 Rock Road in Hawthorne, affecting a two-story building that houses about 20 families, according to Hawthorne Mayor John Lane.
The mayor says half of the basement and the building are now considered unsafe.
Officials originally evacuated four units that were compromised, but further investigation found a stress crack on another section of the building, which prompted officials to evacuate the entire building.
Donna Petrillo was inside around 9 a.m. when everything started shaking.
"I heard the loudest bang ever and then I noticed one of my pictures was off the wall and then I heard a cracking nose. Kept hearing a cracking noise," Petrillo said,
What she and others felt was a partial collapse in the basement, Officials believe the heavy rain is to blame an the ground right now is saturated like a sponge. They say the problem was likely slowly unfolding, but Sunday was the breaking point.
"The foundation underneath the building is collapsed into the basement, which is now dragging the first floor into the basement and landed on nine boilers that were affecting other buildings," said Hawthorne Fire Chief Joe Speranza.
vacate orders were placed for Building E, where nine adults, three dogs, and three cats live.
"It's very disturbing mentally. I was worried about my girls' safety," said Michael Barchetto.
The problem is not just isolated to Building E -- the heavily damaged boilers in the basement service other apartments in the complex. Three additional buildings do not have heat and gas.
People were given a brief window to go and grab what they could. Engineers will be determining next steps.
No injuries have been reported