UPDATED: May 2, 2014 6:18 a.m.
BALTIMORE (WNEW/AP) — A train has rolled along 26th Street in Baltimore for the first time since a sidewalk and retaining wall in a Charles Village neighborhood buckled and caved in during a rainstorm, swallowing a streetlight and more than half a dozen cars.
People who live in houses on a block where the street collapsed during a rainstorm may have to be kept out of their homes for up to 40 days, Baltimore officials said Thursday.
Freight rail officials were hoping cargo trains would be running again by Thursday evening on a section of track that was buried when the street collapsed.
Kevin Harris, a spokesman for Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, said he did not know how many houses or people are affected by the continued evacuation order in Charles Village. He said city officials will meet with residents Friday morning.
Rawlings-Blake said the city was working to help those forced from their homes find shelter.
Nobody was injured in the collapse.
Baltimore officials say work to clear debris, stabilize the wall and remove cars on the edge of the embankment began early Thursday. The city transportation department is inspecting for structural integrity of the area.
A CSX spokeswoman says the landslide caused minimal rerouting and inventory delays.
Cars could be seen scattered like toys down the side of the embankment. They have since been removed from the tracks.
William M. Johnson, director of Baltimore’s Department of Transportation, said at a news conference that sonar testing to check the ground’s integrity and a video assessment of the area will begin on Saturday. The street will not reopen before those assessments are completed, he said.
Crews will begin stabilizing the area, a process Johnson said it will take 8 to 10 days.
He said the DOT and the Department of Public Works tested the structural integrity of the site a year ago and found no flaws.
North Charles Street is closed between 25th and 26th streets, and two lanes of St. Paul’s street remain closed as well. Margaret Brent Elementary and Middle School is closed Thursday because of the road closures.
The collapse came after heavy rains over the previous 24 hours brought flooding to the region, but the cause is still under investigation.
“We heard the rumble,” said Jim Correlli, manager of EZ Storage on North Charles and 26th Streets. “We jumped up and looked and there was nothing (but) the hole. It had all caved in: the trees, the lamppost, the stone wall.”
Balil McAllister, 15, who was visiting a friend on the block, said they also heard the rumbling and a “big thump,” which they thought was construction. He said he and his friend ran outside, “and all we could see was the road crumbling.”
His friend, Jeremiah McNair, 14, said, “I saw cars flipped over, falling down, rocks falling. The cars just kept falling.”
CSX officials released a statement Wednesday afternoon saying rail traffic in the area had been stopped.
Engineers from the Department of Public Works were checking the stability of the rest of the street and structures along it. Crews from Baltimore Gas and Electric were examining a gas line.
Rawlings-Blake said it was too soon to determine what caused the collapse. More than 3 inches of rain had fallen on the Baltimore area since Tuesday afternoon, the National Weather Service said.
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