msnbc.com news services
updated 12/10/2003 11:23:26 PM ET 2003-12-11T04:23:26

A wall of a Toronto theater that was being demolished collapsed Monday and hit a school next door, killing at least one person, city officials said. Eleven others were pulled from the rubble and rescuers were digging by hand to reach one person who remained trapped, they said.

The collapse happened when a wall of the historic Uptown Theater fell onto the Yorkville English Academy, which teaches English to adults and teenagers.

“We have people in the rubble,” said Toronto Fire Chief Bill Stewart, adding that five construction workers in the theater were among those treated for injuries.

At a news conference more than an hour and a half after the collapse, Stewart and Police Chief Julian Fantino said that the debris was too unstable to use heavy equipment to try to reach the person known to remain trapped. Instead, rescuers were moving pieces of rubble by hand, they said.

“The situation is precarious at best and dangerous for the rescue operation people,” Fantino said.

He said the busy nature of the site’s downtown location made it difficult to determine exactly how many people may have been caught in the collapse.

The officials said they had no details on the person who was killed, but an ambulance company official told The Associated Press that the victims was a man.

Police closed off Toronto’s main shopping street to allow emergency crews free access to the site.

“My daughter called me right after it happened and said the roof had collapsed,” said Helen Wanger, a parent of a student who was injured.

Toronto city councilor Kyle Rae said the building’s owner had visited the site Sunday and expressed “concerns over safety problems.” Rae did not elaborate.

The theater, a historic site that opened in 1920 as a movie theater and live stage show theater, was the subject of an unsuccessful campaign to stop its demolition. It was damaged by fire in 1960, and developers plan condominiums on the site.

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