EAST PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Crews demolished two apartment buildings and evacuated a few more less than 24 hours before the collapse of Route 30 in East Pittsburgh.
Dozens of tenants at the Electric Avenue Apartments now find themselves at a loss with no personal belongings.
PennDOT officials met with displaced tenants Monday afternoon at the Comfort Suites in Penn Hills to discuss future living plans.
“I worked hard for everything I had, real hard. I was just comfortable and now I have to start all over,” Carmella Lee said.
Lee and her sister Denice Mott walked into the hotel’s conference room on Monday morning looking tired and frustrated.
Lee said she only grabbed a few clothing items before evacuating on Friday afternoon. She said she lost her most precious belongings because she figured she would return.
“My mom’s stuff and my dad’s stuff and my kids’ stuff from when they were babies, my life was in there,” she said.
Lee lived in one of the two buildings closest to the hillside that crews demolished just hours after debris and rubble fell down the hillside on Saturday.
This emergency is proving complicated for PennDOT officials as they figure out how to best handle the debris.
“Unfortunately, in this situation in the apartment building, many of them are elderly, they’re handicapped and they’re disabled. So, our job becomes – the bar is raised even higher,” PennDOT’s Jacqueline Evans said.
Evans will now help the affected tenants find new suitable apartments, clothing, food, vouchers and other household items.
“Many of them sometimes have children. What are the schooling needs? What are the transportation needs? What facilities do they need to get to for physical therapy?” Evans said.
Watch Bob Allen’s report —
A decision to evacuate the apartments on Friday proved to be a life-saving one; the road collapsed just hours later. KDKA also learned that a home on the hillside will likely get demolished in the coming days since the collapse compromised the home’s foundation.
Lee’s sister said even though she didn’t live in the apartments, she’s upset that PennDOT didn’t fix this problem sooner.
“I drove on the road up above it a couple days before it fell in and it was knee-high deep – the dip,” Mott said.
Lee’s sister said she hopes the “truth comes out” and feels this emergency situation, and her sister’s loss, could have been avoided.
The Salvation Army is providing food for those who were forced out by the collapse. The Emergency Disaster Services Unit served dinner Sunday and will be serving lunch and dinner through Saturday.