Crews Thursday began clearing up rubble and debris caused when an embankment collapsed onto CSX railroad tracks in Charles Village, as residents questioned whether the city should have been aware that the retaining wall was potentially unstable.
Workers towed to safety some cars perched precariously on the edge of where portions of 26th Street had collapsed, dragging down cars, parts of the street and sidewalk and forcing evacuations.
The collapse of the street and walkway, between St. Paul and Charles streets, came as torrential rains caused flooding and other problems in the city and across a swath of Maryland.
Virginia Green, who has lived in the 2600 block of Charles Street since 2009, was at home when part of 26th Street collapsed 75 feet onto CSX tracks.
“It sounded a little like thunder,” Green said Thursday. She said that she first thought it was people upstairs moving in. But she then saw other residents run outside toward the tracks. When she got there, they found her boyfriend’s car had been sucked in by the collapse.
She said the road had been at a severe angle for a while and that she believed construction on Charles Street, along with the rain, exacerbated the situation.
Johnnise Smith, who lives at 26th Street and Huntingdon Avenue, said he had been emailing city officials about the slant of 26th Street for more than a year.
She said the city has made half-hearted attempts to address the situation, such as putting gravel down and repaving, but she is worried the collapse could spread and damage her home.
“It’s like putting a Band-Aid on cancer,” Smith said.
The Sun reported Thursday that displaced residents may be out of their homes for up to 40 days. The city will offer vouchers for food, accommodations and other needs, the mayor’s office told the newspaper.
Mayoral spokesperson Kevin Harris told The Sun that a structural analysis had been done on the area in 2013 and it was found to be stable. More tests will be conducted Friday.
CSX said it is working with local authorities to support a fast and full recovery. There are no passenger services on the affected line, CSX said, adding that it was hoping to resume service as early as Thursday night.
For their part, residents said they were relieved that no serious injuries occurred. The collapse happened at about 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, across St. Paul Street from Margaret Brent Elementary-Middle School.
“If it happened an hour earlier, kids would’ve been walking by there,” Green said.