Residents in Yonkers remain evacuated due to mudslide

YONKERS (WABC) -- Yonkers officials now said more than 100 people were forced out of their homes due to safety concerns after Wednesday's mudslide.

A retaining wall collapsed behind a senior housing complex Wednesday, sending mud into the back of the building. The building remains evacuated as inspectors try to determine if the building is safe.

Authorities say a water leak from a broken pipe likely caused a mudslide that prompted the evacuation of a senior housing complex in Yonkers. Yonkers Fire Commissioner John Darcy said the water leak on Ashburton Avenue probably was to blame.

The mudslide occurred at about 1 p.m. in the rear of two apartment buildings connected by a common lobby at 95-97 Walsh Road near War Memorial Field and the old Croton Aqueduct. A 25-by-75 foot section of a retaining wall collapsed, sending water, rocks and mud rushing down behind the eight-story building.

The building of 104 apartments is home to mainly senior citizens and disabled residents. The process of getting dirt away from the building was held up for hours after the stone wall shifted.

The short term plan is just to make sure the stone wall and the building won't come down while crews work. The long-term plan is to get the 150-year old aqueduct stabilized, and that could take months.

No one was injured in the incident that officials initially said could be related to melting snow and ice.

"It sounded like it was a train wreck or something. You could hear stuff rolling," said resident Keith Housey.

He lives directly next to the evacuated buildings, and says he can only describe the moments after the mudslide as pure chaos. "All I kept seeing is people running out of the building," he said.

One of the residents forced to evacuate was asleep when the mudslide happened. Demetrius Wright went to see the damage after being alerted by a neighbor.

"I went outside and they said, 'You can't go back in.' ('So you left with the clothes that were on your back and that was it?') "And that was it," he said.

Luckily Wright had a friend to stay with, while dozens of his neighbors had to sleep on cots in the Police Athletic League building.

"What we're doing is providing them with clothing, allowances, transportation, food allowance, and the hotels are being provided for by the city," said Kevin Stewart of the Red Cross.

One of the most difficult things for the Red Cross to deal with was medications, considering most of the evacuees are seniors."A lot of them needed their medicine immediately, and that was our challenge. They couldn't go the night without medicine," said Stewart.

As for the buildings, the deputy fire chief told us engineers are monitoring the walls to make sure there won't be a collapse.

"A big 50 foot section of that wall slid with mud and 50, 60 foot trees leaning up against the building on the far side, so what they're trying to do now is dig that out and relieve the pressure," said Deputy Chief Thomas Fitzpatrick.

The city of Yonkers has set up phone numbers for family members looking for information: 914-267-6736, and 914-267-6630.
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